Before I start this I would just like to say that I kept myself from posting sarcastic comments to ridiculous posts for like 2 days for this to be the post which marks my entrance into the Creme de la Creme of exclusivity, the pinnacle of power, and the key to unlimited knowledge and infallibility.
Knees shall tremble as I approach and ruin shall lay in my wake. My word is now law and my bidding is bond. I am Supremus. Hear me ROAR.
Yep, felt great. As you can see, I have gathered much wisdom and nurtured much humility in my travels here.
This post and it's timing is hence dedicated to Eke and his incredible dedication to not only this thread but the community and his unmatched use of visual comment imagery.
Anyway, all the standard disclaimers apply. If you don't know what that means, go read the opening to Jokers thread. He covered it pretty well. I also am not guaranteeing or standing by any specific mentions of frequency range perceptions and will try to remember to update this once they are measured so use them as a mental image guide only.
Aurisonics ASG-2. Impressions.
Edited by vwinter - 7/24/13 at 4:18pm
So here's how I got them: bass port 1/4 of the way open. Thunderous is an understatement. The weight of impact is as if the god of bass himself brought his mighty hammer down within your head. "Like a ton of bricks" was used earlier in this thread and I believe it's quite an apt descriptor: heavy, large, but firm and strong. The laughable idea that it could still be even somewhat taut at these levels quite quickly becomes sobering. Now this doesn't mean there's no effect on the rest of the frequencies. At this level, there's a masking and warming effect but not in the traditional sense. With the port 1/4 of the way open, it literally sounds like the bass is in front of the presentation, on a different plane. Again, literally. This is, somewhat, probably what was meant when people said that it doesn't affect the mids. The mids sound literally separate and behind the bass but they never really lose their presence and never feel like the child left behind. Make no mistake, the sound is warmed up here, but oddly never sounds inviting. This isn't a by the fireplace sort of warmth as much as it's a industrial heating element, almost a smelting factory kind of warmth, very reminiscent of the final scene in Terminator 2. Now while the perception of having the bass on a separate layer sounds appealing for its aiding in perceived midrange clarity, there is a negative affect on imaging and the lower mid to upper bass transition. This is particularly apparent for lower male vocals where the transitions from mid to bass frequencies sees the cue jump ahead and fill the foreground. It's also in this situation that the provided warmth is more apparent. To smooth out the transition, I've had to turn down the bass port from halfway between closed and the first notch to 1/3rd of the way. This also lets the bass notes come through more as notes rather than mostly impact. And the review will mostly reflect that bass port setting. Yes, that whole paragraph was an informational subterfuge for an intro to my bass port setting.
The vocal character of the bass, i.e. if described as a voice, is also interesting. The weight almost bears down on the bass itself dropping it down an octave across the entire bass frequency range. This is hard to explain but if most IEM bass sounds like Nina Simone, then the ASG-2 bass sounds like Barry White. This makes bass "notes" sound a bit different or deeper than other IEMs I've heard.
As I've said and have found agreement from a few members, to the delight of my soon to be sent out consulting invoices via PM, I feel the bass sounds best when the port is not entirely closed and the driver is allowed to breathe. The result being a much weightier bass without losing much speed or tightness and creating a very well defined edge to bass notes of this magnitude, which is to say substantial.
I had said in my ASG-1.1 impressions that it lived in the land of the gentle giants. Well the ASG-2 is the land of giants over the hill that trained with Bruce Lee. They are still giants but they are quick and aggressive. The sound is still large but instead of cavernous, it is crisp, the stage clean, and the images incredibly concentrated. The way sound travels, vocals isolate, and the general blackness remind me of the GR07 I once loved but where it differs is slightly less lateral reverb and interaction with the "environment," and the increased energy and authority across the spectrum. The entire sound is very visceral. It creates images that you can almost reach out and touch.
While the added warmth from the midbass might very well put off those looking for "accuracy," (as well as quantity) the dryness of the sound cuts through the warmth, improving vocal timbre, which IMO is really very good. There is a good balance of resolution, dryness and warmth to allow vocals to shine. A bigger issue is the effect of the midbass on vocal placement in depth from track to track depending on relative levels. There also seems to be a bit of a dip in the lower mids that does not help this issue and they lack a bit of energy for me sometimes. This combination hurts performance for 80's and 90's metal IMO pulling the rug of good crunch in the mid to lower mids right out from under the sound, but not so much the upper mids which show fantastic texture for horns. The IE800 does better in the lower mids but begins to drop off before 3K where the ASG-2 seems to have a small bump, giving higher vocals and vocal harmonics a very satisfying energetic sizzle.
While I've made points about the mids throughout, I need to add that they show excellent speed and resolution but not the best I've heard and the "indoor" style soundstage with blackness centers the mids very well. The soundstage on the other hand, while first appearing on the conservative side due to what sounds like music in a well dampened "room," with more listening has shown itself to be capable of great dimensions. The "large" and palpable sound helps in this regard. They can reproduce depth very accurately but just short of the best I've heard in terms of throwing back images as opposed to reverb. Spacing can be quite good and separation is very solid but not unrealistic. Imaging is very good in general aided by the very concentrated cues and can mostly be helped if there was even better resolution or slightly more prominent treble, but this might hurt the realism of the sound, giving the appearance of being bright, or even thinner, so I actually prefer this tuning of good balance.
The treble on the other hand feels to be placed just below prominent with peak in line with the upper mids somewhere around 8-9k. This may be the cause of a very specific "ssss" sibilance that is only present on hotly mastered recordings that already display it. It's a unique sibilance in that its very concentrated, sounding almost like a jet turning on it's afterburners, and is unlike most sibilance I have heard that shows itself on the more broad "sshhhhh" sound. On most recordings, you will never hear it but it is there for those sensitive. While it appears to have smoothed out a little, maybe I've just gotten used to it, and I don't particularly mind as I'm not particularly sensitive to it. If you've heard this type of emphasis before and are particularly sensitive to it, please take note. Other than that, the treble has a hearty quality and appears to be quite linear in the upper registers with a slight downward slope and seems to have good extension. I tried the mosquito test tone alternating between 17.4KHz and 20KHz for fun and could hear the oscillations going higher and lower. Unless it was my mind playing tricks on me as I haven't had my hearing tested formally in about 20 years.
Timbre for most instruments is solid to very good. There isn't much bad at all that stands out. It handles acoustic instruments and synthesizers with aplomb. I do want to repeat that it was generally not that great with 80's and 90's metal, though it did very nicely with Overkill which was one of my favorite thrash metal bands back when that was my thing. Horns sound eminent with tons of texture and rasp, strings sound hearty with a deep woodiness, winds sound airy but full, and percussion moves a lot of air around the stage and shimmers just enough.
While I wanted to keep this to sound, I do want to comment on the absolutely vast improvement in ergonomics, fit and comfort in comparison to the ASG-1.0-1.1. Dale and the team at Aurisonics made great strides here and it wasn't simply a job of cutting down a bit of the housing here and there. This was reworked entirely, maybe even from scratch: the size (smaller!), the shape, from body to nozzle, different diameters, different angles different placements of components. The main pressure for most will likely be from the large-ish nozzle and the stem leading into it, but this is miles ahead of the old ASG-1 for me because there is virtually no pressure on my outer ear, which is where I am sensitive. Smaller ears will still want to consider that it is not the smallest IEM, fitting a 15mm dynamic driver. Also, the shell has more clarity than the ASG-1 did which is nice, and while the outside is keeping its pristine icy look, it appears as if some of the adhesive inside the shell, particularly surrounding the bass port is yellowing. Also, mine seem to have quite a large imperfection on one of the plates while the other is perfect and I plan to inquire as to how to have it changed out if possible because I am like Monk sometimes. It still looks far and away better than its predecessor and for anyone using small Auvio tips, the red stems look killer with the reddish pink driver rim.
Also, I will concur that they for some reason sound absolutely balls with the D100 amp section and I have no clue as to why. I have never heard the amp section do that to any IEM before. As a matter of fact, it did the exact opposite of what it usually does. Mind boggling.
Westone 4 - Modded with different dampener and 100 Ohm resistor (anything else?)
The soundstage has less blackness and sounds less clean than the ASG-2.
Resolution is probably about par but there is a softness to the sound that undermines clarity and definition in comparison, which is interesting because there is more separation on the W4. Midbass texture is likely a bit better on the W4 but the softness of the sound once again undermines it, hurting timbre on drum and viscerality. Where it becomes a strength is that I feel it allows limitless fatigue free listening, similar to how I remember the GR07. Bass quantity especially subbass and definition is far greater on the ASG-2 having more weight and power and palpability, and this stands across the spectrum. The overall timbre on the ASG-2 is also better as the W4 can sound a bit hollow and thin in comparison. There is also a slight bit of sibilance on the W4 but it lies in the more common "shhh" area. Near field imaging on the W4 is a little more cramped, making it sound congested, even with very strong separation. But even so, I want to say that the tuning of the separate drivers on the W4 to produce a similar quality and character of sound, and work together in a coherent manner is really a testament to what makes the W4 a longstanding pillar of the portable audio community. To me, its really more of an enigma, soft but sharp, congested but spacious and separated, thick but thin, fast but slow and so on and so on. It's an odd bird but I also like it.
Here is where they are hard to even compare: whereas the ASG-2 is very visceral, very palpable, almost touchable in sound, the SUI feels... detached... like it doesn't need to engage you or impress you. It just is, like a crystal clear window into another universe. Like Wayne in the church banging on the glass. Yet there's a warmth that makes you feel at home. But, I'll try.
In direct opposition to the ASG-2, the SUI feels very fresh clean air, in the mountains "open." The sound is less centered and is spread across a very wide open and large space. In this way, it is similar to the Heaven V. Part of what gives it the detached feeling is this powdery softness, like drinking a nice 147 degree cup of gyoukuro. It almost never feels harsh at regular listening volumes even though there are large peaks in the response, or strong even though they can sound large and dynamic. The peaks manifest themselves not through harshness but through the occasional misplacement of sonic cues. In a small instrumental arrangement in which I know the tambourine is centered in the back, at anything higher than minimally regular volume, it became resonance-y, unwieldy, exaggerated, and almost smeared. This is where the ASG-2's comparative mid through treble linearity becomes a very strong point. There is also the occasional show of sibilance on the "shhh" sound at higher volumes differing from the ASG-2's more pointed "ssss" sibilance which is more limited both in occurrence and only with already sibilance prone tracks. The sound produced is larger in general compared to the ASG-2 with larger less dense images and fill the open space well. Spacing of cues is more spread out, separation is stronger, and resolution is higher on the SUI. Depth of images is about equal to the ASG-2 on the other hand but overall depth is a little better on the ASG-2 because it better defines the sonic space. unlike the weightier treble of the ASG-2, the SUI's treble is much more weightless, but never really sounds thin and seems to shimmer forever. Bass texture better than the ASG-2 and the W4 while still being soft in character, which is a major difference between them. The SUI just can't work the whole sonic landscape with impact in comparison. Drums are insanely detailed but a little tinny on the SUI and vocal timbre is just a bit off in comparison to the ASG-2, in part due to sounding so detached, giving them a slightly hollow quality. Finally, they both are only okay at lower volumes with the ASG-2 becoming a little dull, and the SUI suffering on the imaging and soundstage fronts.
I just want to add that FINALLY, someone else is using the HJE900 cable material which is GLORIOUS and is thoroughly against being unwieldy and tangling. Good job Ocharaku.
Like I've already said, I feel like these two were cut from the same cloth so this might be short. Both feature prodigious levels of bass, mids on the drier side, a black "indoor" soundstage, and just generally a very similar sonic character. They even have the same concentrated "ssss" sibilance on hotly mastered tracks that feature that sort of sibilance already. Here's where they differ besides size and design. The IE800 is just a bit more resolving. This may be in part due to the lack of prominent midbass producing a masking effect. Most of the bass on the IE800 is focused on the subbass as opposed to the ASG-2 which features both in similar quantities with maybe a slight midbass lift, but a clean one. Due to the "musical" bass. The treble is also more prominent, but as many have said, much thinner than the ASG-2, hurting the treble timbre on the IE800 a bit. The mids are also drier on the IE800, with very little warmth being lent from the midbass but even so can be smoother and are more effortless than the ASG-2. It doesn't sound as grand or as large as the ASG-2 in general, but the soundstage is more adaptable. Imaging is slightly better on the IE800 but this is mostly a effect of better resolution and less midbass. There is also more upper mid texture and crispness than the ASG-2. Yep, short and sweet.
Final Audio Design Heaven V Aging
This is the comparison that no one has been waiting for.
The fact of the matter is that the Heaven V ("HV") is much closer to the SUI in sonic character than the ASG-2 and that will make this comparison a bit tough.
If I described the ASG-2 as having a sonic character like the clean blackness of space, then the HV would be the a crystal clear sunny day with miles of visibility. With that visual aid to be kept in mind while reading this out of the way, I can get to where the more specific sonic differences:
I'm also just going to get this out of the way: The ASG-2 is more resolving. If that's your sole measure of greatness, there you go. Moving on. The HV is generally more linear from 20-10K, and exhibits absolutely no sibilance. It then has a more laid back upper treble, bells and cymbals are thrown back a bit, and it probably has a bit less extension. The bass is much less in quantity and weight than the ASG-2 with a slight midbass bump, but it still has a very solid bass presence and the bass is a good amount more "musical" than the ASG-2 and just about anything else I've heard, giving off more of a "notes" quality as compared to the G-2's more "weight and impact." Another head-fier called it very euphoric bass and I would agree. But this does not mean that the HV is thin. The images also feel very "touchable" even with slightly less concentration and weight. Moreso than the SUI, it has a density of sound that is more akin to the ASG-2, but more liquid, partly due the lower resolution no doubt and probably specific distortion characteristics of the FAD Balancing-Air-Movement BAs. And like the ASG-2 it holds onto this density across its entire frequency response, giving the tuning an amazing sense of coherency and palpability.
Both appear to have a little peak at 3K but the HV is perceptively larger, which can get close to an edge or shoutiness at higher volumes, whereas the ASG-2 keeps it in line. This might be a part of what gives the HV it's unique "room acoustics." The Heaven V is the easiest to drive IEM I have ever tried, and can get deafening quite quickly. This may aid it in being one of the most dynamic I have heard, allowing it to both sustain images across volume ranges better than the ASG-2 but also work much better at low volumes, making it one of the most satisfying low volume listening IEMs I've ever used. I would say that it's mids are little more colored, especially audible in the vocals but you forget about it quickly once you hear the almost deafening clarity around the vocals, and images in general, on mostly any track. This works very well in more indie or acoustic tracks especially. The ASG-2's vocals have better timbre but they don't live in their space the way the HV's vocals tend to do, almost alive.
Spacing is more spread out on the HV, with certain tracks showing worse centering similar to the SUI, and in that way can sound thinner. But unlike the SUI it defines the engineered or recorded spaces better, and better than the ASG-2 using reverb to its unlikely advantage. Imaging is more precise on the ASG-2 but due to that "clarity" of the HV I mentioned earlier, it feels less "real" for the most part. I almost want to call this a timbre of sonic landscape. The soundstage is also more adaptable on the HV, capable of better height, and among the best depth representations I have heard, but worse on more ambient tracks due to the "sunny day" quality of its sonic character.
General instrumental timbre is pretty fantastic on both, with maybe the ASG-2 winning out a bit in the midrange due to the greater resolution.
Based on what you find important, I can see it going either way, as it did for some of my "untrained" friends in listening sessions (who all, unanimously loved the IE800 most lol). They both have different X-Factors. But, I'd say that the ASG-2 is more technically capable. I'd probably call the ASG-2 revolutionary and the Heaven V revelationary and I'm extremely happy I own both as they are really almost nothing alike and compliment eachother very well.