Alright, after a good 16-20 hours of listening these past 3 days, and hearing one song that I was left awestruck on my ASG-1s, I feel I have enough ammunition to do a decent review of these new IEMs of mine. I'll probably do a site based review as well (these need more proper ratings). I'm also pretty sure these are the ASG-1.3. Which is to say this is the third iteration of this IEM.
First a bit on how I decided on these. So at the NY Head-fi meet I was looking at the three headphones that were on auction hoping to not spend more than $200 on a good pair of IEMs. The RE400s from HiFiMan were always a possibility, and I liked how they sounded, the other two I spent some considerable time with, the ASG-1/2s and the UE900s. Of the three I liked the sound of the ASG-2s the most, and the tunable bass feature is a stroke of brilliance. But, Aurisonics in all of their generosity put up a pair of their ASG-1s and Ultimate Ears a pair of their UE900s. Sonically I felt they were decently comparable. The UE900s excelled in the highs more than the ASG-1s and the ASG-1s had better mids. But it was all relative, as I was sure I was going to EQ them to fix their short comings anyway. Neither sounded particularly bad with anything either.
The two things that made me focus on the Aurisonics was 1) the CIEM cable. and 2) I was told by the Aurisonics Dale I think that they were upgradable to the ASG-2s soon. And that just sealed the deal for me, seeing as how I loved the ASG-2s.
So now after I've grown into them (and I really mean that, I'm liking the sound more than I did when I first listened to them at the meet, and don't believe that it is burn in at work) I feel that I can make a decent review.
The Review (with Stock Cable. I'm going to do Moon Audio Silver Dragon later on, but I'm not sure if there will be many if any sonic differences. The metals are just more pure from my understanding, but we'll see)
(I'll be more or less following Joker's IEM review points as I rather like his IEM review style and goes over everything important that I feel should be in a IEM review)
Accessories: (4/5) - For me the most important accessories are the tips. I can do without extra cables I don't need and all that is really needed is cleaning tools, a case or pouch and a 1/4 inch adapter. This has 2/3 things that I wanted, all it lacked was the adapter. Which really isn't a big deal. The tip selection is magnificent though. 2 sets of bi-flange tips, and 3 sets of single flange tips. And they are well chosen too.
Build Quality (4.5/5) - Okay, this might be unfair because I feel like my past IEMs were tanks. But there are caveats. Comparing them to the HJE900s in build quality, the housing is seems to not be as good, but the replaceable port was flimsy and easily rotatable, and honestly that is what ended up breaking in the end for my HJE900s. So these I don't think that will happen, even though the housing doesn't seem as robust. But that isn't a bad thing, in fact, I am quickly preferring it. The cable is just unfair to compare though. CIEM cables, from what I've seen, are just better made in general, even the lower end ones. Overall, these are solid built IEMs.
Isolation (4.5/5) - Better than most other IEMs I've heard, even with single flange tips. The 4.5 is with double though, but there is some comfort issues, but the single flange tips do an amazing job while not being totally invasive. Certainly the best I've heard (or rather not heard). This was previously held by UE Super.Fi 4. The only IEMs that I've heard in generics that could beat these are the HF2/3/5 from Etymotic. But those are incredibly invasive.
Microphonics (5/5) - There is barely any. Seems to me that over the ear fits tend to fair better here. But yeah, unless the cable is rubbing on a zipper or something I can't hear it. And even then it is minimal.
Update: I'm not changing the score, because it is remaining the same. The only time I heard anything similar to microphonics in the month that I've been listening to these is when they rubbed against my hood. The brushed plastic made noise. I'm not entirely sure that is avoidable with any headphone that is designed like this. With it being flush there is a chance the actual housing can rub against hoods and such, which leads to something similar to microphonics.
Also, I've since started wearing them behind the back, which makes the zipper situation nonexistent. And I rubbed the cord intentionally at different points of the cable and heard nothing to very little getting closer to the actual IEMs. I'm extremely impressed.
Comfort (5/5) - First set of universals I've ever had that I literally have zero comfort issues. Remember when I said the tip selection is perfect? If I want a bit of extra isolation the smaller bi-flange tips are great and very comfortable, but honestly it isn't necessary since they do eventually become slightly (albeit barely) uncomfortable. The medium single-flange is perfect. And having owned or demoed many IEMs before, never have I had a situation where I could literally forget they were in my ears. If the customs are anything like this, then I look forward to getting a custom mold one of these days done. It is simply fantastic. Bar none the best fit and comfort of any universal fit IEM ever.
Update: Not even my saying, but I allowed a few of my co-workers to try them out. All concurred that these are some of the most comfortable IEMs they ever put in their ears.
And now for the sound...
Sound (9.3/10) - I've never heard a 10/10, but I'd say my HJE900s were around a 9/10. The following will be done without EQ from J3 and Audio-gd NFB-11 source with everything from classical to EDM and Chiptunes.
Update: The score is unchanged, mainly because I feel that it is a fair score even after burn in. I considered putting 9.4, but I really don't think the sonic improvements were enough to warrant it. Maybe 9.35 would be more accurate using the 9.3 from the original), or perhaps the original score would have been more accurate at 9.2 in retrospect. Either way, I feel that 9.3 is correct)
Bass response is great. These are definitely on the warmer side, but aren't dark or veiled. Quite the opposite, the bass stays where it is needed, and is accurate and punchy. I'd say the bass is quite perfect in bass for a fun IEM. It actually works well with just about everything, and unlike some other headphones I don't feel like I need to tone it down any for any music. It is one of the better if not best bass responses I've heard on any IEM. It is probable due the the rather large driver used. But that is fine by me if it will give me that fun, natural sound I miss so much from my HJE900s.
Update 14MAY2013: I want to say that the bass is unchanged, however that isn't entirely correct. I feel like it has become a bit leaner. This is especially in the midbass frequencies. This is where the warmth of the IEMs partially came from in conjunction with the midrange being forward. I really can't categorize the bass as being warm anymore. Well entirely at least. There are some songs that seem a bit warm still, but it is far less than before. The bass seems balanced with the rest of the frequency ranges, lending to a far more versatile IEM. The bass gets low when it needs and bass is full and there. The subbass isn't as forward, but it is natural and punchy. It doesn't feel as strong as before, and that is a good thing. It can still rock me to my core when needed, but it works with far more music.
Midrange. I really have no words for the midrange. Usually dynamic drivers lack here, but these are almost as good if not as good as some BA IEMs I've heard. It is just fantastic. It blows the HJE900s out of the water. I was gobsmacked by the midrange of these guys. It is lush, and detailed. I really can't think of anything bad to say about it. These are some of the best midrange IEMs that I've heard. Vocals are so incredibly natural, these are the IEMs I will now gauge other IEMs on for midrange.
Update 14MAY2013: This is where I've noticed the most changes. From the start, these were midrange forward, and I knew this hearing they were stage monitors and was fine with this idea. This created some warmth in the headphones and pushed the highs to seem more recessed than they were. The midrange has since pulled back a bit while still being forward. The voices still pop and are lucious and full. Vocal tracks just sound awe inspiring. This is especially true for female vocal jazz. When I put on a live performance of Sarah Vaughn or other female vocalist it seems as though I'm front row center in the audience. It is really a magnificent thing to hear. And having been to many jazz performances, I feel I can say this with confidence. It feels like I'm sitting there, if I sit at my desk with these in my ears with whiskey in my hand, I can swear that I'm at the Blue Note listening to these greats singing their hearts out.
Highs. This is where they lack unfortunately, and it kills me, because when the highs are needed I can HEAR how clear they are and how far they can extend, and with EQ or the right amp (apparently) they become great. A slight bump is all these puppies need really to sing in the highs, but flat, they are just lacking. However, for some music, like chiptunes and EDM that is perfect. For certain other genres, they need help. I imagine when I upgrade to the ASG-2s this will be fixed (from what I can recall from the meet), but until then its serviceable.
Update 14MAY2013: Did I mention that the midrange pulling back brought the highs out? Because if I didn't it totally happened. Don't get me wrong, they are still the same (if anything stayed the same this is it). Great extension with clear roll off. But the highs are more prevalent now. I can't say they became more forward, because that would be inaccurate, at least in my opinion. I don't feel the highs are more forward, in fact that would be a fallacy, because it is clear that they are still rolled off. The midrange pulling back though made them more noticeable and there. It is hard to explain, but the best I can say is that these were designed to become balanced after extensive burn-in. Seems odd, but to my ears this is so. The highs are there when I expect them now, and I don't feel the need to EQ anymore. They might benefit for rock and other genres which lend well to sharp highs, but honestly, I don't feel as though it is necessary.
Soundstage and Instrument Separation. Best soundstage and instrument separation from a single dynamic driver, but not perfect. Well the soundstage might be. It is really a wide soundstage that, I didn't expect. Listening to classical with treble boost is really a treat. If I use Crystal Clear on my J3 it is somehow even better (and I don't get how that setting works, it some how improves every single IEM and headphone that I use with it). These aren't BA, but they do separate better than any other dynamic driver IEM I've heard, and they might just be best in class for soundstage.
Update: Remember that whole EQ thing with classical? Well I think I've fallen in love after burn in without EQ. The imaging is pretty magnificent. I'm sure the instrument separation could be better with BAs, but honestly, I don't think it would be as natural sounding. The 3D imaging is really great. I can't stress that enough. If these had the accurate instrument separation I've heard from some TOTL IEMs I think I'd be in my IEM endgame. I would probably buy an ASG-2 seperately to have both.
Overall: These are simply a great IEM from build to sound. The highs need a bit of help but, honestly, I can live with that in regard to the rest of the sonic advantages of this lovely IEM. I look forward to upgrading them and getting even better sound from these IEMS.
Also... These are the first IEMs that made me stop in my tracks period when a song came on by the Chiptune artist Omodaka. Seriously AMAZING. No EQ, just pure sound. It was audio bliss, and I don't say that often. I need to find more chiptunes as they seem to love these IEMs.
Additional thoughts: First off... These headphones have quite literally changed how I think about headphones and burn-in. I never thought that would happen. I knew in theory that burn in could occur, but I didn't think it was within audible differences. If there is such thing as "miracle burn-in" I think I heard it. The sound signature is a more balanced form of its former self. It is no longer leaning towards bass. It is sitting squarely in the midrange, with the highs and bass sharing about equal presence most of the time. I really keep finding music that sounds wonderful on these things. From classical to EDM, it all just works. Probably the best are anything that is vocal driven. The reason why I think Omodaka works so well is because of the female modulated vocals Omodaka uses. It just works on these IEMs. Likewise groups like the Mediaeval Baebes sounds glorious on these. When the voices are together you can tell they are in the same area and can still identify the individual voices. I can see how these were designed as Stage Monitors as I can almost with certainty tell where every voice and instrument is coming from. If this gets better with the two BAs installed... I don't know what I'll think.
Update made for 150hr burn in period ending. Colour me shocked. I'm now a believer in burn-in.
Edited by kyuuketsuki - 5/13/13 at 10:36pm