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[REVIEW] Astrotec AM90, AS100HD and AS200HD

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Astrotec is a company that doesn’t seems to have much of a name in the headphone business, even though it has been found back in 2002 making and designing headphone for others. But with so many small OEM/ODM headphone companies in China, you simply won’t make a name unless you have something different to show for – and that’s exactly what Astrotec did a few months ago with the release of AM90 under their own brand, as one of the cheapest single balanced armature IEM in the market. They have also expanded their line-up with two small portable on-ears as well, among others. So far, budget market seems to be their main focus.

AAM90-01.jpg

AS100HD-1.jpg

Spec

AAM90-02.jpg

AM90
Driver: Single Knowles Balanced Armature
Frequency Response: 100Hz – 12kHz
Sensitivity: 109dB / 1mW (1kHz)
Impedance: 25ohm
Cable: 1.2m +/- 0.3m
Plug: 3.5mm stereo gold plated
Price: US$45

AS100HD-2.jpg

AS100HD
Driver: 40mm Open Back
Frequency Response: 10Hz – 25kHz
Sensitivity: 110dB / 1mW (1kHz)
Impedance: 32ohm
Rated Input: 30mW
Max Input: 500mW
Cable: 1.2m +/- 0.3m
Plug: 3.5mm stereo gold plated
Price: $35

AS200HD-1.jpg

AS200HD
Driver: 40mm Close Back
Frequency Response: 8Hz – 22.5kHz
Sensitivity: 115dB / 1mW (1kHz)
Impedance: 32ohm
Rated Input: 50mW
Max Input: 500mW
Cable: 1.2m +/- 0.3m
Plug: 3.5mm stereo gold plated
Price: US$35


Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality
You can easy tell AM90 is from China when you see the brown paper box with foam inlay - kind of rustic, but not in a bad way as it keeps the price down for what essentially a budget IEM. Packaging for the AS100HD/AS200HD on the other hand looks more upscale, but nothing particular to praise for either.

Accessories wise, you’ll get a soft pouch for either AS100HD or AS200HD, which is typical for on-ear. AM90 comes with a hard case, a pair of tri-flanges eartip, 3 pairs of single flanges (S, M, L), and a pair of foam tips with adapter core – not the biggest accessories pack we have seen in this price range, but nothing to feel ashamed either.

AAM90-03.jpg

AAM90-04.jpg

AS100HD-3.jpg

AS200HD-2.jpg

Build quality is where Astrotec truly excels. First, AM90 comes with a housing of its own design. This might seem trivial, but using your own housing design, not to mention in aluminum, is actually quite expensive. Well, the design itself might be a bit far from winning an award, it is still of really good quality. The cable used is also excellent – semi-transparent, remind me of MEElec cable, except this is a little springy and microphonics. However, it looks very well made and durable. It can be wore over-the-ear so microphonics can be cut down. As for the AS100/200HD - the overall build quality rivals that of Sennheiser PX series easily, and that is enough said. The headphone themselves are pretty similar to MEElec HT-21 actually, only the minor parts are different.

All and all, Astrotec’s offerings are made in such a way that they could compete with products that priced twice as high.

Sound Quality
All models have been given over 50 hours of burn-in before the review.

AAM90-05.jpg

It is pretty obvious AM90 uses a Knowles Siren driver even without confirmation from Astrotec (though they do) as it has the exact same sound signature as Sherwood SE-777 and MEElectronics A151. So I won’t bother to write it a new one. Instead, I’ll quote what I have written previously: “Very warm and fairly musical, with a full sounding mid and bass. Treble is clean, very well extended but smooth, capable of showing a good degree of fine detail yet it is not the highlight of the sound. Mid is warm and full, slightly forward with a sweet vocal. Bass is also warm and bigger than average body, but slightly slower than expected and do not have a very strong impact, not quite a bass monster and roll off at near 20Hz yet a very good performance (both quality and quantity wise) as far as BA based IEM is concerned.” The main different between AM90 to SE-777 or A151 is soundstage, which is noticeably wider than the later two. Not sure how Astrotec is able to give a Siren driver that extra spaciousness, but perhaps it has something to do with the elongated housing. Though the soundstage has been improved, overall it is still relatively minor. While I do prefer AM90 a bit more, it is still more or less on the same level as SE-777 and A151 as far as technical ability goes.

AS100HD-4.jpg

AS100HD is warm and smooth. Bass has good impact and decent body, mid is well textured and the overall focus of the whole presentation with a tap of sweetness in it. Upper mid and treble is clean, but a little too smooth some time and could use a little treble boost to add back some missing sparkles. Soundstage is decent, even though it is an open end design. This is probably the side effect of the slightly forwarded mid and bass.

AS200HD-3.jpg

AS200HD is the fuller and warmer version of AS100HD.Bass has good impact like AS100HD, but much fuller and can come out mushy. Mid retains most of the texture, but also fuller and sweeter at the same time. The good thing is that the treble is also crispier and better sparkle to compensate for the added warm. Soundstage is sub-par, mainly due to the warmness and forwardness of the presentation. It really is more ‘surrounding’ than it is ‘wide and open’.

Both AS100HD and AS200HD, like MEElec HT-21, fail to challenge the king of budget on-ear, the Koss KSC75. Among the three however, HT-21 probably has the best treble extension (but need better lower end), AS100HD will have the best overall balance and smoothness (but could use a little more sparkle) while AS200 will have the richest and fullest of sound (but could have a bit more bass control). All three are priced similarly, but I think I like HT-21 just a little better more since adding bass tends to be easier to do than the other two options. But with the right EQing, all three should be right around the same level of performance, more or less.

Verdict
I like A151 because it combines good sound, good build, and good price together, the same however can be said to AM90 as well. And so, I see no reason why I won’t recommend AM90 with the same Sonic Diamond I have given to A151, especially since both models can be found under $50 from time to time.

Both AS100HD and AS200HD are solid models, and like the previously reviewed HT-21, they offer good value. The only unfortunate thing is that KSC75 is still available for $15 these days and it is a tough opponent to beat.

A thank to LeadMeUrEars for the samples.
Edited by ClieOS - 11/23/12 at 7:27am
post #2 of 11

Hey Clie,

 

I'm considering the AM-90s to get something with slightly more top end detail than my much loved Sony MH1Cs. Is this a wise decision, or do the AM-90s BA driver not provide any more detail than the Sonys? If not, can you suggest something that does (under $100)? Thanks, and great review... and thanks for finding the Sonys, I love these IEMs!

post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

It will be slightly more detailed, but I don't think it will be different enough to warrant a second pair of IEM. If you want an IEM that really contrasts MH1C, I'll recommend HifiMan RE0 instead (Head-Direct is having it on sale for $50). It is analytical and neutral, which is opposite to what MH1C sounds like. If you are only looking for MH1C, but will better detail, I'll suggest you just use EQ to boost the treble.

post #4 of 11

Heh, I figured someone was going to recommend the RE series. Problem is, I owned the RE-ZERO and found it to have plenty of detail, but the sound was so dang thin and cold, I just couldn't enjoy them enough so I sent them back. They sounded like perfect satellite speakers that were just crying out for a good, speedy sub to bring some warmth to them. I do miss that detail though... really nice for gaming having that kind of detail.

post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

RE0 and RE-ZERO ain't the same beast though, but if you don't like an analytical sound, you won't like either. EQ there is then.

post #6 of 11

@ClieOS --> Nice review,simple & straight to the point. would you please recommend whether buying AS-100 a better choice? compared to Bose OE2,Sennheiser HD429,ARH-450,Philips SBC-HP890, TF10s alike......I know all these are out of their league to AS-100 but sound-wise we can adjudge, because Bose OE2 doesn't sound like an $150 OE phone, for that matter.

 

I prefer AS-100s than AS-200s as they are open back, sound natural,can get more spacious sound stage. Other recommendations are also welcome.

OR comparison between your cans(IEMs/HPs) and AS-100 is also ok to me.

 

right now(09/16/2013) there's a sale of US$26.xx @ lendmeurs.com which is a pretty decent deal.

<Thx> :D

post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 

Can't tell you much as I have not heard OE2 or the others. AS-100, while worth the asking price, is still fairly entry level as far as SQ goes.

post #8 of 11

k......OE2 is Bose OE2.

post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

Yes, I know. But I literary have not heard / listened to it in person before. The only Bose I have listened to recently is a pair of IE2.

post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post
 

The only Bose I have listened to recently is a pair of IE2.

                                                                                -5      -2.5       0          +2.5    +5

So how would you rate AS-100 with IE2? AS-100 sounds (worst)-(bad)-(equal/ok)-(good)-(better)?......


Edited by Shawn71 - 9/17/13 at 1:34am
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

The memory between the two are very far apart in time, so this is as much a guess as it is an impression - I'll say IE2 sounds better, but not vastly.

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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors › [REVIEW] Astrotec AM90, AS100HD and AS200HD