Preface: Review not formatted for Head-fi, sorry for any weird formatting
A few months ago I decided to get myself a pair of Custom In-Ear Monitors. I decided to buy the AS-1's as I liked the ideas behind them very much, but Dale Lott of Aurisonics surprised me and gave me a sneak preview before anyone else of what would come. The AS-2's I received are considered prototypes. I will go back and forth between calling them prototypes and regular AS-2's as I see fit due to what I know has changed or not since I received my pair. But please understand that they are very much indeed prototypes, as they were in my possession before the official release and also has one added and one missing component.
- Stellar audio reproduction
- Custom molded for a perfect fit based on ear impressions
- With a perfect fit you hardly notice wearing them
- Many different options for customization ensure you have a personalized product tailored to your aesthetic pleasure
- Price doesn't scream, "throw me around and don't worry about losing me"
- Added price of audiologist appointment or time to do it yourself with provided impressions kit
- Bad impressions will give a bad fit and hurt your ears
- Some hiss does exist when around items with strong RF signals or an electromagnetic field near the source when using them. It's not always, it's not even consistent, but it does happen, it comes with the territory of balanced armatures. It's nothing that would cause anyone to complain that they are unusable. It's hardly noticeable, but if you're trying to hear it you'll hear it at some point.
A Small Warning
This product was developed mainly for those people in the music profession. That is not a bad thing, but it is definitely something to remember as some other companies make products meant for consumers that are used by artists, but these have even more power and care taken to them and are stated to be for professional use only. I feel it is important to inform everyone that you should always listen at safe levels which is the case with all products, but especially ones that were not designed for consumers.
In this section I am going to break down what I think of all the features that appeared on the main page for Aurisonics when they announced the features and where the AS-2's would be launched.
- 15mm Dynamic Driver
- Next Generation Dual Tweeters
- The AS-2's feature three sound components, one 15mm Dynamic Driver and two "Next Generation" Balanced Armature tweeters. The combination of which is spectacular to behold.
- Adjustable Bass Porting - For those of you who love your bass, and it's easy to see why with the AS-2's, this port will allow you to adjust the bass levels, but please be advised to practice extreme caution as these are made for music professionals, not for consumers. I wouldn't be surprised if you can rattle your head so much with the AS-2's that you hurt yourself. I've definitely pushed the AS-2's a bit hard on the bass and they never disappoint, but I still advise extreme caution in doing such things.
- "Hyper-Coating" Comfort Tips - This is the feature I have yet to receive. I will be sending in my AS-2's for this treatment to be done. From what I understand it is a special compound developed that will help cling to your ear canal from your body heat and help the AS-2's stay in even better. I have had no problems without this, but I am curious to see what it can add to my experience and will report back later.
- Recessed Connectors - Aimed at allowing for more durability and longevity of your In-Ear Monitors, the recessed connectors may be seen as a plus or a minus depending on your needs and if you want aftermarket replacement cables, as not all of them support recessed connectors.
Obviously as you can tell, the AS-2 Prototypes I own are quite flashy. This specific model has the polished shell exterior and a Chrome plated front panel. These are both separate options for when one orders the AS-2's. If one does not choose these options, the AS-2's will look a bit like the ASG-1's that jr.kong reviewed previously. They would have a frosted shell and a frosted plate. Options like the ones on my AS-2's will run you $1200. (Notes about pricing at the bottom)
The comfort level of the AS-2's is a positive thing. Since they are custom made to impressions I sent in, they hardly feel like I am wearing anything at all. I have had many listening sessions that lasted only a few minutes, and many more than turned out to be hours. This is good for those of you that are musicians and for those that are not. The ability to not notice any fatigue or discomfort from a pair of headphones, or in this case In-Ear Monitors, is important and welcomed. Music professionals should have no fears about being able to use this on stage during a long set, or just for long mixing or listening sessions.
Accessories & Packaging
Similar to all other Aurisonics In-Ear Monitors, the AS-2's come with a Otterbox. Custom molded In-Ear Monitors come with the Otterbox 2000 to be precise.
Besides that, the AS-2's came with a little satchel to store the AS-2's in and a tool to clean up the area that the sound comes from, since it will build up with ear wax and need to be cleaned off every once in a while. All in all, nothing too great, but not lacking. I would have loved to see an included microfiber cloth to wipe off finger prints from the chrome panels on the AS-2's after insertion to my ears, but being that they do not need much more maintenance than that, a case to keep them safe and a portable case for on the go along with the cleaner tool was more than adequate. After talking with Aurisonics they are including a polishing cloth with plated versions of the AS-2.
The overall sound signature of the AS-2's is flat. Each of the three normal divisions of the frequencies are equally balanced with each other and this makes for a fun experience. The important thing about the AS-2's is that no matter how much I have tried boosting any single part of the highs, mids, or bass the overall sound from the rest of them is still superb and unaffected. Each section is well contained and little to no leakage between them means if you like it more bass heavy, go right ahead, you will still hear everything crystal clear. A song by Bassnectar called "Ping Pong" samples a ping pong ball bouncing around. The 3D imaging is amazing on the AS-2's, but if you turn up the bass levels you will still hear the clearness of the ball bouncing around like it was a leaky faucet dripping a drop of water in an otherwise silent room.
This is the area in which those two tweeters come into play. The highs are interesting on the AS-2's. It's this part of the AS-2's that I guess one would think the tweeters are standalone and separate from the 15mm dynamic driver in them, but to my understanding this is not the case. The balanced armatures in the AS-2 seem to compliment the dynamic driver to ensure that you are not just able to hear the highs, but also hear them well and enjoy them equally. Listening to music with really high notes hit by a vocalist is spine chilling. It's a great feeling to have something that hits hard as needed in the bass and still delivers like this in the treble space.
The midrange of the AS-2's are lush. They are warm and inviting to you as a listener. I find the midrange to be perfectly tuned for the other frequencies to complement them. Similar to the treble, the midrange is quite airy making the two seamlessly co-exist in a unity of spaciousness and yet similar sound qualities. The midrange is airy and textured. It really makes you feel like you are there as you hear the pluck of the guitar in front of you. the tweeters used for treble levels mean the midrange is not overpowering the trebles at all. The midrange feels like so much of the rest of the AS-2's, which is a product that you can tell took some hard work and care to make and perfect.
It's something I have been talking throughout lots of sections of the review and rightfully so. It's amazing how the 15mm driver inside this In-Ear Monitor performs so well with all the frequencies and realize that it also handles the bass at the very same time. The bass is crisp and clean. In the past with my headphones that I have had that were considered Basshead headphones, with great bass, I never had anything like these. On tracks I previously thought were mastered poorly because it's bass did not produce much rumble or have much depth to it. With the AS-2's, the bass still does not lack it's clarity and texture when testing with those tracks. The bass goes well below my previous headphones, the Denon AH-D2000's that have quite a history of Basshead territory in the audio hobbyist community. I highly recommend anyone worried about finding something that'll give them that bass craving they have but fear losing the rest of the frequencies or even just think it'll be too heavy. It's a bit hard to get a handle of, but I can't think of any other way than to say, the AS-2's will perform as close to how the master engineer for the song intended it to sound. If the song is meant to have light bass, that's how the AS-2's play it. Yet at the same time, if the next song calls for lots and lots of bass, it'll deliver that as well, nice and clean, without any change of settings. In actuality, that's how every headphone or In Ear Monitor should be, but I have never found one that does on such a consistent basis until the AS-2's came along.
Soundstage and other qualities
This is one of those things that one feels the AS-2's were made for. I got the AS-2's while I was going through finals at school and used them at first while studying. I was in the library one day and the track I listened to had a sample of someone clapping very far away. I instantly started looking to my right and their was not anyone their for about 20 feet, yet I could have sworn the clap came from that first person. I listened to the track again and realized it was something in the music, but it definitely made me know I had something special. I have been enjoying very much the use of live music recordings to see how large the soundstage really is. I've pushed it to where using stadium concert recordings you'd swear you were actually there. You can tell exactly where the band is positioned and if a member has moved around on stage. You can hear the slight nuances of the fans and figure out exactly where the microphone must have been if you look at a map of the stadium it was recorded in. The instrument separation is unreal sometimes in how well you can just try to only listen to the pianist or any other instrument and just completely get lost in only hearing that instrument as it's perfectly clear and is not being blurred by any of the other instruments during the song.
To EQ or Not to EQ
For the AS-2's, the need to EQ like with the ASG-1's reviewed previously on the blog is not existent. I have tried it and it does not do the job like it should. The balance of the AS-2's already is amazing. The use of equalizers is meant to fix or account for the sound qualities of a less capable headphone. An equalizer for bass boost would look to help give that extra attention to the bass frequencies since they are not getting enough power to the headphone or are not as efficient at playing those frequencies as it is with other frequencies. The AS-2's do not have that. Every section of the frequencies that make up the spectrum that humans can hear is accounted for and level with each other.
Final Thoughts and Recommendations
The customer experience provided by Aurisonics is a treat to encounter. They are responsive and will work with you. This product is a gem to behold. Within moments of use it is obvious the amount of work and dedication that went into developing it and the things it is capable of are astonishing. If you are able to afford the price and are looking for a custom In-Ear Monitor, you won't go wrong no matter who you are. Whether you are a Basshead, love the sound of amazing vocals, or just enjoy music with no preference for anything to be particularly strong in any which way, the Aurisonics AS-2's are something to consider as they have lots to offer for anyone with a love of music.
MSRP: $799 for base model (No aesthetic options included)
* 8Hz - 25kHz frequency response
* 34ohm +/- 10% impedance @1kHz
* Sensitivity 123dB @ 1mW
* 15mm dynamic driver
* Dual next generation tweeters
Aurisonics AS-2's Page: Click Here
Aurisonics Facebook Page: Click Here
Review taken from by author and brought to you by Kenman345, Click here for the complete review with photos: SOURCE
EDIT: I wanna add why I named this review what I did. The idea was that with the AS-2's, the choice of what to listen to on a day to day basis is like having tons of money in a store of things you wanna get. You can listen to every genre and enjoy it to the fullest. The CIEM's are designed for music professionals for on-stage use and for mixing. The way it feels you hear the music is what seems to be very close if not on point to how it was mastered and meant to be heard. Owning the AS-2's for 2 months before launch was a great opportunity. I would constantly be searching for music and increased my CD collection by many CD's as I aimed to have the best quality files I can get. I also bought a few vinyl records during the whole process as well. I honestly feel that their is an increase in quality of playback when you give it these better sources for the music. My quest for better and better quality recordings and gear may never end, but I know the AS-2's are definitely going to remain a cornerstone of my high end gear for a long time, or at least till Dale decides to release a new CIEM for me to get. I've talked at length with Dale about the AS-2's and all they offer. Great custom IEM's at a great price. I could not be happier with them and I hope my review convinces everyone else that the Aurisonics AS-2's are here, they're amazing, please take notice and enjoy them if you can afford them. That was my goal, and all my impressions are exactly how I hear things put into the best words possible to describe them (that I am aware of). Please feel free to ask questions and contact Aurisonics if you are interested in buying them. They will work tirelessly to make you informed about their products and to make sure you have a quality product.
EDIT 2: I also wanna say a thank you to the Head-Fi community. The AS-2's were a huge leap in quality for me and I have enjoyed the interactions with people that it has brought about. You guys have been very welcoming and I definitely feel proud to be apart of this community. The people I met at the NYC Head-Fi Meet Up June 2nd were all great. Everyone was not only happy to let me try their gear, but also encouraged me to do so and then talk about what we enjoy about the wonderful hobby we all share. I can't wait to be apart of the community for years to come and help future Head-Fier's feel as welcomed as I have. You guys are great, thanks for everything and I hope to continue to contribute as I can in the future.
EDIT 3: Their is a planned group buy deal for Head-Fier's to get the AS-2's that is still in the works. It's still going to happen, it is just still unknown when it will take place and what the prices are going to be. But it should at least be lighter on your wallet in some way. Dale has not mentioned what it's going to be to me, but he has confirmed that it is still something Aurisonics plans to do in the future.
I wanted to address the $400 price increase from the base model to my aesthetic options is broken down as such:
- Chrome plates - $300 (These are custom plates, they are only made after they print out your shells, they cannot mass produce them like they will be able to with the ASG-2's or with the current ASG-1's).
- Polished Clear Shells - $100 - These are hand polished (AFAIK) and look absolutely stunning. I cannot stress how much the AS-2's I own look significantly better than I can photograph.
The aesthetic options are extra, they may feel like a premium but you get a quality product and are add-ons. They do not affect the sound qualities of the AS-2's and the AS-2's are originally intended for music professionals, that are willing to pay the price to have a customized custom IEM to perform with.
Edited by kenman345 - 7/23/12 at 8:37am