Love At First Ring: Two Weeks Journey With a Telephone Receiver, Aurisonics ASG 2.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
= ASG 2:
Let me start this write-up with some hyperbole, because these ASG 2s are the most refined sounding set of IEMs I have heard to date.
Here is my illustrious in-ears gear history:
IEMs: MEElectronics M9< TDK MT-300 < Tt isurus < monoprice iem< Brainwavz beta v2 < JVC HA-FX101< Sennheiser CX250< Apple earpods< JVC HA-FX40 < RHA MA-350 = Philips SHE5105< JVC HA-FX3X< Corecool V2 = ATH CKS77X< JVC HA-FXD70< Phillips SHE9700< Sony MH1C < ATH CKN70< VSonic VC02 = JVC HA-FXD80 < VSonic VSD1 = Sony XB90EX = Zero Audio Basso < JVC FXZ200 < Sony XBA3 < VSonic GR07 BE ~ VSonic VSD1 LE (Limited Edition) = ATH CKS1000 <~ KEF M200
All listening was done with the Ortofon clear tips at this point for a very good reason as you'll later find out.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The sparkly lush mids was what jumped out at me when I listened to these ASG 2s for the first time. There is just this sparkle to their presentation which makes everything sound so refined, though I am not 100 percent certain that this can be entirely attributed to the lushness/ forwardness of their mid range but the sparkliness of the sound signature is one of the traits I love about these ASG 2s. From personal experience the only IEM that also have such sparkly lush mids was the JVC FXD 70s, but those Carbon Nanotube micro driver IEMs lacked the spaciousness and stage these ASG 2 has. Also those JVC FXD 70s were really fatiguing due to their overly lush and forward mids along with a really bright, harsh and sibilant treble. So despite their similarities in the mids, these ASG 2s won't "sparkle your ears out like" a lot of the Carbon Nanotube IEMs because they are never bright, harsh or sibilant, hence combined with a much larger soundstage makes them much more spacious and 3D sounding than the more closed in presentation JVC FXD 70s. These ASG 2s also has a very natural and realistic timbre compared to the more artificial, almost metallic sound of the JVC FXD 70s. This is probably due to the Balanced Armature and Dynamic hybrid driver design of the ASG 2s which helps to negate the more artificial sound signature/ metallic treble that many BA IEMs seems to be affected by such as Sony's XBA 3s. As I have stated the lush sparkly mids is the high light of these ASG 2s but the treble has pretty decent quality and quantity as well. Highs seems to be there without being overly extended nor overly recessed, so I would say they are just present. Therefore, these ASG 2 can be listened at pretty high volumes for prolonged sessions and one would have zero problems due to their non-fatiguing nature.
The bass of these ASG 2s is mostly focused on the mid bass regions, but sub bass quality and extension is satisfactory though it would have been better if the mid to sub bass ratio was more balanced. I was tempted to try the bass ports out but never bothered because at their current setting the bass quantity/quality was perfect for me so I can not imagine these ASG 2s with even more bass added to their overall presentation. Many people seem to take issue if there is a mid bass hump in the sonic spectrum, but for me these ASG 2s have pretty good quality as well as quantity even though it is mid-bass centric. In fact their mid bass have fantastic slam and can sound pretty explosive when called for because it is big, fast and hard hitting which gives a good sense of weight, depth as well as texture to the musical notes without being overly powerful, thick or sounding congested. They are by no means "muddy" sounding as some have suggested. These ASG 2s have too much sparkle, instrument separation/ layering, clarity, transparency, micro details, lushness in the mids to be ever considered as "muddy." All these wonderful attributes are then enveloped by very 3D, out of your head presentation but yet has a intimacy to their sound as well because it is not overly wide or deep that the music gets lost within it. Sure they have a mid bass hump but it is a mid bass emphasis done right which hardly bleeds into the rest of the sonic spectrum.
So far these ASG 2s seem to have pretty good bass and amazing mids but what about the treble???
Below is the reason why I have not yet mentioned the treble of these ASG 2s.......
Impressions with single flange stock black tips:
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
For a total of half a week, all my listening sessions were done with the aftermarket Ortofon clear tips, so I decided to tip roll these back to their stock single flange medium tips to see how they fare. Lo and behold, I then realized what all the controversy was all about regarding these ASG 2s. Not only did the generic stock tips felt and looked cheap, they seem to make these ASG 2s sound more dull and flat as well. There was not only an immediate and noticeable decrease in the sparkliness of the presentation but clarity as well. It is akin to a can of opened soda that has lost all its fizz due to sitting out for too long. What I also noticed besides the overall down grade in the refinement was that the stock tips were extremely wide in bore. The stock tips opening as you can see in the picture above fits around the very edges of the clear plastic nozzle, which is already extremely wide in itself. I came to the conclusion that the ultra wide bore of the stock tips when compared to the less wide Ortofon clear tips, degraded the sound of these ASG 2s due to the sound becoming more diffused, therefore a lot of the "refined" qualities of these ASG 2s as mentioned in the previous paragraphs are muted.
The more narrow bore of the Ortofon clear tips seems to create a tighter more cohesive sound which brings forth better clarity, transparency, more sparkle and lushness. For me the stock tips does not do justice to these ASG 2s whatsoever because it makes them sound a bit dead, while the Ortofon clear tips gives them a more lively sound. This decrease in the overall refinement of their sound then made me concentrate on the treble of these ASG 2s much more, or should I say the lack of treble. Those infamous graphs indeed seem to have some validity in that these ASG 2s do in fact have a rolled off treble that lacks both extension and sparkle. I would not say these have "no treble" per se but it is merely just present without any offensiveness nor flavor. So yes their treble quality and quantity is pretty lackluster and bland, but if one is not too picky regarding this aspect of the sound many would not take too much issue with it since this can be a positive attribute due to its non-fatiguing nature, especially when used for long stage monitoring sessions at high volumes in order to block off ambient noises.
Such "honky" sonic characteristics as some has described made me realize why these ASG 2s are ideal for stage monitoring. Their rolled off polite/ non-fatiguing treble, big mid bass slam/impact without much sub bass extension, but is outfitted with amazingly lush, forward sparkly mids makes it easier to hear instrumental cues and bass kicks during noisy stage performances. This is my best guess because I have no such personal experience nor expertise, but I would imagine mids and mid bass impact as more prioritized for stage use, hence the sound of these ASG 2s are tuned that way. Not only this but these ASG 2s also offer pretty good passive isolation as well, meaning that when worn without music on, the stock tips blocks off just enough so you won't hear all the background noise, yet when someone is talking to you, you can still hear pretty clearly without taking the IEMs off. So I would say they are average in terms of passive isolation, But when the music is on you can't hear anything around you even in pretty noisy environments. I have worn these out and about in really windy conditions in the city where there are lots of cars, buses and people around and was in complete audio nirvana due to how well they isolated with the music on, and when I needed to talk to people I was able to simply pause my music without ever taking them off.
Despite these positives, there are many negative ergonomic issues with these ASG 2s as well. Their form factor is somewhat bulky, hence it's not ideal and can be problematic if one plans to use them while laying down, etc. Despite their snug fit, my ears got a bit sore from just wearing them for 30 minutes or so due to their size and shape. If I didn't touch them I don't really feel the pain but once I touch the IEMs or take them off the mild soreness is immediately noticeable. They are also meant to be worn over-ears only so that might be a plus or negative depending on your personal preferences and needs, but even though I wear glasses, they are pretty comfortable for me. The cable feels a bit flimsy and not the best built for a $600+ unit but it seems study enough. With the music off there is noticeable, albeit slight microphonics (cord noise) when rubbed against my shirt collars, but when it's on you will not notice much if any cable noise. The $100 custom matte paint finish didn't really have a premium nor durable feel to it, so I was extremely careful while handling them in order to not scratch the paint job. The weight of the IEM is extremely light and despite that might be great thing comfort wise, as a whole these ASG 2s just didn't convey a sense that it is a premium high quality product.
Overall, these ASG 2s is still one of the most refined sounding IEMs I have heard to date, but only with those Ortofon clear tips and it's a shame that great tips like those are not made stock from the get-go. So yes, a set of quality tips DOES in fact affect the sonic presentation and quality that much for me despite such "subtle" changes might not be always measurable. I was able to get a great seal with both set of tips and the sonic changes when accounted for can really make or break the sense of enjoyment for these IEMs. I can now understand why owners of these ASG 2s would spend an extra $15 for just those Ortofon clear tips alone. Since we are on the topic of monetary worth and value, the overall packaging of these ASG 2s is rather spartan in terms of looks, cable, and even the stock tips selection. If I have to put a monetary value on the sonics of these ASG 2s alone, these sound like a set of $300 IEM to me tops, especially with their stock tips. But with the Ortofon clear tips I can see myself paying $350 for the overall package. As someone very eloquently and aptly puts it "diminishing returns is a bitch" because The Law of Diminishing Returns is very real in the case of these ASG 2s due to many universal IEMs, such as the VSonic GR07 BEs, ATH CKS1000s, KEF M200s and even the cheapo VSonic VSD1 LE (Limited Edition) which punches way higher than their price to performance ratios can more than hang/ compete with these ASG 2s sonically especially in the sub bass and treble regions. Despite the GR07 BE bests it in the department of lushness and texture, sub bass extension and depth goes to the ATH CKS1000s, smoothness and balance goes to the KEF M200s while naturalness and realism goes to the VSD1 LEs, nevertheless I would have to honestly say that these ASG 2s has got a leg up on the overall refinement due to their unique sound signature and presentation which warrants their higher price tag. But for me this price tag is only $100 more worth in refinement when compared to all the other price to performance heavy hitters I have just mentioned.
TO BE CONTINUED...................