My experience with the Astrotec AX60:
At this point in the tour the AX60 needs no introduction. Astrotec's first higher end earphone. Their first hybrid. Producing a triple driver hybrid first and duals second is interesting and seemed that they wanted to beat competition such as Vsonic and DUNU to the market. They got theirs out early but would they have been better off taking their time? They did garner the "they just copied the K3003" label and by now it is obvious that this phone doesn't have perfect tuning and maybe more time could have resulted in better choices in this regard.
I find the build very good. For the price I could expect better or worse. Just doesn't excite me that much. Not as good as say the $120 RHA MA750 which has a three year warranty and is quite well done. It is better than say the SM3, which was the same $299 that the AX60 currently goes for when I purchased it. Enough metal in the construction. A good but slightly thinner TPE cable. Nothing wrong with thin. It allows a smaller case and helps with microphonics and comfort being lighter. Can't be sure how long it will last with a brief loan so durability can't be determined. Some people will lower the mark for not having a replaceable cable for the $300 price tag.
The cases are quite nice. I do wish the accessory tin had a wedge ring on it. The tips and ear guides are pretty generic and the chosen tips, IME, aren't the best choice for optimal sound.
Fit is subjective but for me they fit well. Better for over the ear than straight down but workable for both. The AX60 housings are smaller than I thought they would be due to the cable routing arm that protrudes out the side of them. This can get in the way a bit with wearing them straight down and lends to a shallower fit in general. Again, with my particular ears which are medium sized for the most part.
These are tunable earphones but more limited then some offerings like my previous SA7 which has more than two options for both bass and treble tuning. One option is more reference which brings brighter treble, a tighter more airy bass, and leaner vocals. There is also a bass filter that tames some treble making them less bright and thickens the bass and mids and generally fills in or compresses the presentation a bit as it loses some air around things and the mids become a bit more thick and lush.
I hear both tunings as having better balance than I expected. Problem is the tuning of the TWFK for the most part. Seems they took the AX7 implementation and kept it. I remember Joker not liking they way the high end was too present and prone to sibilance regardless of tuning filter. I hear the same peak or peaks in the treble mentioned by Joker and earlier in this thread. Obviously more offensive with the brighter filter making it unusable for me. This means the bass will not get the better articulation and improvement in air/space of that filter. How bad these peaks bother someone will vary with gear and personal treble tolerance. I get along better than with them than the previous spot on the tour :) The TWFK is said to be tuned by Knowles but not done as well as other implementations we seen. I think the problem stems from the design which lacks the true Knowles dampers cause they won't work with the armatures being placed in front of the dynamic and the wider tube and dampers would not allow pass through for the dynamic unless the outer sound bore diameter was increased. A change in the design here could have fixed this, the biggest flaw I find with the AX60. Some DIY with tiny pieces of earbud foam placed in the tube can fix this if one is so able and desiring. Other fixes of course are quality EQ and tip rolling. YMMV!!
If you can get the treble right it is still more on the metallic side but well extended, clean, nicely separated and detailed. Nice treble for the price when fixed but lacks the true extension, airiness, and smoothness of truly high end treble performance. Also the metallic nature and peakiness, unless fixed right, make the coherence of the two driver types less than ideal for a golden ears such as myself.
Another problem is with the bass. I really thought the armatures in front of the dynamic would make the AX60 flawed in the lows. I was wrong. The issue is more the stock tips which seem to try to smooth treble peaks but don't do the bass justice. I've found my CLR100 tips improve the bass and smooth the treble fairly well. I've found that large Monster Gratitude stock tips don't smooth the treble quite as well but show what the bass and mids can do and that the construction need not hurt bass performance. Bass is well extended, nicely blended in(pretty decent 3D imaging down low), has very nice texture and a natural tone. The bass filter gives more bass emphasis and it is thickened but in is very even and can stay out of the mids quite well. The bass reaches quite low and is positioned very accurately(surprisingly so for this filter) within the stage. Can't get the best out of it due to not being able to use the cleaner sounding plate. Bass to mids transition with the Gratitude tips is seamless, even, and coherent but this will make the tone of the armatures stand out unless they are corrected adequately.
The mids/vocals are fairly lush and smooth and very legible. Well separated and even up right with the bass on the bassier plate with the right tips. Not even a shallow U to my ears and quality-wise as good as anything the AX60 does. You can have either the bad tips that muck the bass hurting the mids quality or the sibilance inducing tendencies from the peaky treble hurting the mids. Potentially excellent mids with a big sibilance caveat at least.
Outside of tip induced bass bumps or humps and terrifying treble peaks that need attention, the AX60 is capable. It is a large sounding phone that has a good stage in all dimensions. Good width, height, and depth and is pretty circular in shape with a nice enough 3D image with the thicker sounding filter. Very good extension in both directions, very even tonal balance as well to my ears. Nice detail and texture. Dynamics are a smidge better than I thought they would be(even unamped) and could be a bit better if I could use the brighter filter. They fare better at not getting bogged down than the SM3 that I mentioned earlier. They AX60 fare better in this regard with more juice as well since they open up and "breathe" better.
I like the AX60. May need the right tips, gear, and/or a tweak to steer them to their best but they are technically capable and enjoyable enough to justify their price point. For a first time higher level offering, a first hybrid, and possibly somewhat of a rush job they didn't do too badly. I've seen worse first offerings in the same tier of earphones in the past. A couple of better choices and I would deem them really very good! The AX60's flaws can also be dealt with if you really want to. Point is that many of us don't want to shell out $300 and still have to fix or tweak things. At the time of this writing though they can't be put high on the recommend list with the latest competition available or soon to be available like the DN2000, H3, H-300, etc. but, to me, it shows that Astrotec are a serious player and their next big offering has some promise and is worthy of keeping an eye to see how it turns out.
Edited by jant71 - 3/31/14 at 12:20pm