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[Poor Man Reviews] Audio Technica ATH-IM02

post #1 of 86
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys for helping to get this review featured!  The support I've gotten so far is amazing and I look forward to bringing more reviews to the Head-Fi community. 

 

AUDIO TECHNICA'S ATH-IM02


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INTRODUCTION


After recently purchasing a pair of Sony MDR-XB70AP's (see next review), I was greatly disappointed by the terrible overall sound quality on the "Extra Bass" earbuds.  I guess it should have occurred to me that earbuds named and marketed as "Extra Bass" would be pretty bad, but I fell into a beginner's trap and was suckered into the earbud's aesthetics.  Undeterred, I sought to find a pair of better earbuds, a search which quickly introduced me to the world of the audiophile.  I don't want to turn this into a tl;dr post, so if you want to know more about how I actually got to the ATH-IM02, see the Miscellaneous Things section.  Before moving on, a quick shoutout to Stereo Singapore for letting me audition 5 IEMs for over 2 hours.   

 

SPECIFICATIONS


TYPE: Dual Balanced Armature Driver

FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20-16,000 Hz

MAXIMUM INPUT POWER: 3mW

SENSITIVITY: 113 db/mW

IMPEDANCE: 36 ohms

WEIGHT: 5 grams

PRICE: 211-250 USD

 
 

PACKAGING/INCLUDED ITEMS


 

 

Overall, the packaging on the ATH-IM02 is what you would (and should) expect on a pair of IEMs in the 200-300 dollar range. A smooth black box with precision cut foam inspires confidence, and helps to boost the overall packaging quality past some competitors.  In particular, I like that the earbuds are not placed in a simple clear-plastic holder and prominently displayed in a cut-out on the front of the box.  However, I am a bit of a stickler for details, so I'm not sure how applicable my comments are in this regard.

 

With regards to the included "value-added" items, you get a solid hard-case in which to carry your IEMs.  Audio Technica's included box is a good compromise between the soft top Shure carrying case and the ABS orange plastic Westone "vault".  It adds good protection without looking over the top in terms of demonstrating its ruggedness.  3 sets of silicone tips and a single set of Comply T500 tips are included.  This is an area that could honestly have been improved.  The inclusion of a few more tips and a triple-flange would have made for a much nicer fitting package.  However, it's also good to know that most of the money I paid went into actual hardware.  So, reader gets to decide on this issue.

 

BUILD/SOUND QUALITY


 

 

The IM02 has a solid build quality.  With a clear plastic housing, relatively comfortable memory wire, and decent "heft", it doesn't cause much doubt in terms of durability.  In addition, the use of a new proprietary 2 pin cable will help to lessen the impact of cable failure.  The jack is well built and features good stress relief.  However, the one gripe that one could have is the relatively large size of the IEMs.  With larger ears, the IM02 should be no problem.  However, with smaller ears, the IM02 might go from leaning towards a negative profile to sticking out of the ear slightly.  In comparison, the fit isn't as good as the Shure Tru-Fit design used by Shure IEMs.  Both fits still lose solidly to Westone's truly negative-profile IEM design.  That said, with a bit of tuning, most users should be able to achieve a good seal.  

 

Sound quality is excellent.  As has been said in many past reviews, the ATH-IM02 sounds well beyond its price point.  To start, the bass is solid.  It is tight and punchy, and is capped at a very good level.  In Espoir by Darius, the IM02's demonstrate their ability to start the song with clear, controlled "punches" of upper bass, before gradually transitioning to a slow decay sub bass. For bass-heads though, the IM02 might spell disaster, as the quantity of bass is not particularly generous.  For me, it's great that there's a tight leash on the bass.  But for others, this might be a deal-breaker.

 

To test the mids, I utilized one of my all-time favorites, Africa by Toto.  For me, the ability for a pair of IEMs to play this song can be a deal breaker/maker.  Testing revealed forward mids that were rich and full.  While definitely not the smoothest nor warmest sound out there, the IM02 makes its stamp on the mids through a very analytical interpretation of the pieces it is tasked with playing.  I really appreciate the ability to hear one of the band members laugh softly at the 2-3 seconds into the song.  That to me is simply worthy of commendation.

 

The trebles are sparkly/bright, but can be somewhat harsh.  This is one of the things that the IM02 is not forgiving about.  Poor file quality will spell certain doom, and imperfections will be handled with the same clarity that otherwise makes the IM02 sound so great.   

 

FINAL THOUGHTS


This is a truly great pair of IEMs.  At the current price, you can enjoy amazing clarity and rich sounding music through dual balanced armature drivers. I have to commend Audio Technica on being brave enough to not dumb down the clarity in hopes of creating a more forgiving sound that would appeal to a wider audience at this price range.  As stated before though, if you are a bass head or are looking for a more relaxed sound, this might be the wrong pair of IEMs for you.

 

MISCELLANEOUS THINGS


I started out my search with the W10s, UM Pro10s, SE 215s, and SE 315s in mind.  However, after 2+ hours of auditioning, I was thoroughly convinced that the IM02 was the winner at the pricepoint given.  To start, the W10s are just too mild.  Westone didn't want to alienate casual listeners, so the earbuds were tuned to be a little more forgiving.  However, they are in many ways, far too forgiving and a little soft too.  The UM Pro 10s just sounded wrong.  An odd emphasis on mid-high notes and a lack of bass make for a floaty sound that just didn't feel right.  The SE215s were bassy and warm.  However, they had even less clarity than the W10s and were quite soft.  In comparison, the SE 315s were much louder, but lacked a clarity that would warrant the 315 dollar price tag.  After trying out the IM02, I believe I had found a clear winner out of these few "entry level" earbuds. 


Edited by thatonenoob - 10/18/14 at 7:28pm
post #2 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by thatonenoob View Post
 

DISCLAIMER: I am neither an employee nor an affiliate of Audio Technica.  All photos are taken and owned by me.  Also, this is my first review, go easy!

 

AUDIO TECHNICA'S ATH-IM02

 

The IM02's remind me of the professor who goes through every detail in an essay.

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

 

TYPE: Dual Balanced Armature Driver

FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20-16,000 Hz

MAXIMUM INPUT POWER: 3mW

SENSITIVITY: 113 db/mW

IMPEDANCE: 36 ohms

WEIGHT: 5 grams

PRICE PURCHASED: 268.00 Singapore Dollars (211.00 US Dollars)

 

BACKGROUND:

After recently purchasing a pair of Sony MDR-XB70AP's, I was greatly disappointed by the terrible overall sound quality on the "Extra Bass" earbuds.  I guess it should have occurred to me that earbuds named and marketed as "Extra Bass" would be pretty bad, but I fell into a beginner's trap and was suckered into the earbud's aesthetics.  Undeterred, I sought to find a pair of better earbuds, a search which quickly introduced me to the world of the audiophile.  I don't want to turn this into a tl;dr post, so if you want to know more about how I actually got to the ATH-IM02, see the Miscellaneous Things section.  Before moving on, a quick shoutout to Stereo Singapore for letting me audition 5 IEMs for over 2 hours.   

 

PACKAGING:

 

A subtle box with a hint of color.  I like that the earbuds are not prominently displayed in clear plastic (see SE-215, SE-315, etc.)

 

Precision cut foam within a smooth matte box.  Simple but elegant packaging.

 

Overall, the packaging on the ATH-IM02 is what you would (and should) expect on a pair of IEMs in the 200-300 dollar range. A smooth black box with precision cut foam inspires confidence, and helps to boost the overall packaging quality past some competitors.  In particular, I like that the earbuds are not placed in a simple clear-plastic holder and prominently displayed in a cut-out on the front of the box.  However, I am a bit of a stickler for details, so I'm not sure how applicable my comments are in this regard.

 

INCLUDED ITEMS:

 

Very utilitarian, no-frills fitting/carrying package.

 

With regards to the included "value-added" items, you get a solid hard-case in which to carry your IEMs.  Audio Technica's included box is a good compromise between the soft top Shure carrying case and the ABS orange plastic Westone "vault".  It adds good protection without looking over the top in terms of demonstrating its ruggedness.  3 sets of silicone tips and a single set of Comply T500 tips are included.  This is an area that could honestly have been improved.  The inclusion of a few more tips and a triple-flange would have made for a much nicer fitting package.  However, it's also good to know that most of the money I paid went into actual hardware.  So, reader gets to decide on this issue.

 

THE IEM'S (BUILD/SOUND QUALITY):

 

The IM02 in all its transparent plastic and memory wire glory.

 

The IM02 has a solid build quality.  With a clear plastic housing, relatively comfortable memory wire, and decent "heft", it doesn't cause much doubt in terms of durability.  In addition, the use of a new proprietary 2 pin cable will help to lessen the impact of cable failure.  The jack is well built and features good stress relief.  However, the one gripe that one could have is the relatively large size of the IEMs.  With larger ears, the IM02 should be no problem.  However, with smaller ears, the IM02 might go from leaning towards a negative profile to sticking out of the ear slightly.  In comparison, the fit isn't as good as the Shure Tru-Fit design used by Shure IEMs.  Both fits still lose solidly to Westone's truly negative-profile IEM design.  That said, with a bit of tuning, most users should be able to achieve a good seal.  

 

Sound quality is excellent.  As has been said in many past reviews, the ATH-IM02 sounds well beyond its price point.  To start, the bass is solid.  It is tight and punchy, and is capped at a very good level.  In Espoir by Darius, the IM02's demonstrate their ability to start the song with clear, controlled "punches" of upper bass, before gradually transitioning to a slow decay sub bass.  For bass-heads though, the IM02 might spell disaster, as the quantity of bass is not particularly generous.  For me, it's great that there's a tight leash on the bass.  But for others, this might be a deal-breaker.

 

To test the mids, I utilized one of my all-time favorites, Africa by Toto.  For me, the ability for a pair of IEMs to play this song can be a deal breaker/maker.  Testing revealed forward mids that were rich and full.  While definitely not the smoothest nor warmest sound out there, the IM02 makes its stamp on the mids through a very analytical interpretation of the pieces it is tasked with playing.  I really appreciate the ability to hear one of the band members laugh softly at the 2-3 seconds into the song.  That to me is simply worthy of commendation.

 

The trebles are sparkly/bright, but can be somewhat harsh.  This is one of the things that the IM02 is not forgiving about.  Poor file quality will spell certain doom, and imperfections will be handled with the same clarity that otherwise makes the IM02 sound so great.   

 

FINAL THOUGHTS:

 

This is a truly great pair of IEMs.  At the current price, you can enjoy amazing clarity and rich sounding music through dual balanced armature drivers. I have to commend Audio Technica on being brave enough to not dumb down the clarity in hopes of creating a more forgiving sound that would appeal to a wider audience at this price range.  As stated before though, if you are a bass head or are looking for a more relaxed sound, this might be the wrong pair of IEMs for you.

 

MISCELLANEOUS THINGS:

I started out my search with the W10s, UM Pro10s, SE 215s, and SE 315s in mind.  However, after 2+ hours of auditioning, I was thoroughly convinced that the IM02 was the winner at the pricepoint given.  To start, the W10s are just too mild.  Westone didn't want to alienate casual listeners, so the earbuds were tuned to be a little more forgiving.  However, they are in many ways, far too forgiving and a little soft too.  The UM Pro 10s just sounded wrong.  An odd emphasis on mid-high notes and a lack of bass make for a floaty sound that just didn't feel right.  The SE215s were bassy and warm.  However, they had even less clarity than the W10s and were quite soft.  In comparison, the SE 315s were much louder, but lacked a clarity that would warrant the 315 dollar price tag.  After trying out the IM02, I believe I had found a clear winner out of these few "entry level" earbuds. 

Splendid review.

 

I enjoyed the thoroughness of this review. It was a subtle, yet informative review of the audio technica IM02s. I still have the ath-im02, but the new ckr9s are now taking my attention from it. It continues the tradition of the ba's quality bass, but with an added emphasis of bass quantity. The mids are just as forward as these im02s, and the highs are a bit less sibilant/detailed, but still have more than enough quality to compete against their IM series.

 

The ckr series are the musical dynamic version of the analytical/warm Ba version of the IM-0X series.

post #3 of 86

Thanks a lot for the review!! IM02 is indeed a wonderful iem for the price and punches way above its class. In fact I think it is the best sounding out of the entire IM series. 

post #4 of 86
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vlenbo View Post
 

Splendid review.

 

I enjoyed the thoroughness of this review. It was a subtle, yet informative review of the audio technica IM02s. I still have the ath-im02, but the new ckr9s are now taking my attention from it. It continues the tradition of the ba's quality bass, but with an added emphasis of bass quantity. The mids are just as forward as these im02s, and the highs are a bit less sibilant/detailed, but still have more than enough quality to compete against their IM series.

 

The ckr series are the musical dynamic version of the analytical/warm Ba version of the IM-0X series.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by omastic View Post
 

Thanks a lot for the review!! IM02 is indeed a wonderful iem for the price and punches way above its class. In fact I think it is the best sounding out of the entire IM series. 

Thanks guys for the positive feedback!  I'll continue reviewing my existing IEMs and possibly any new purchases that I make.

post #5 of 86

very nice first review, look forward to seeing whats in store for your head fi journey! quick question, what camera did you use?

post #6 of 86
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DatGuy View Post
 

very nice first review, look forward to seeing whats in store for your head fi journey! quick question, what camera did you use?

Thanks!  I look forward to my audio journey too!  For the review, I used a Nikon D700 with a Sigma APO Macro 150mm F2.8 EX DG HSM.  A great setup for macro photography in my opinion.  

post #7 of 86

Wow. Amazingly-written review. I love the attention to detail here whilst being concise and really easy to digest.

Also, I absolutely love the photos. Congrats on the front page!

post #8 of 86
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by thatBeatsguy View Post
 

Wow. Amazingly-written review. I love the attention to detail here whilst being concise and really easy to digest.

Also, I absolutely love the photos. Congrats on the front page!

Thanks man!  Look forward to bringing more reviews to the community!

post #9 of 86

Wonder photography skills. :beerchug:

post #10 of 86

Wonderful and very informative review with great comments and pictures. I also like your miscellaneous things section too. Looking forward to your next review.

 

I am going to order these IEMs to test out. I have the SE-315 but looking for something different.

post #11 of 86
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nek8888 View Post
 

Wonderful and very informative review with great comments and pictures. I also like your miscellaneous things section too. Looking forward to your next review.

 

I am going to order these IEMs to test out. I have the SE-315 but looking for something different.

Hope you like it!  If you like your clarity served in a transparent plastic cup with filtered water inside, then you won't be disappointed! :)

post #12 of 86
Awesome review! Looking forward to more of your reviews. smily_headphones1.gif
Edited by lalala6 - 9/25/14 at 6:47am
post #13 of 86
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lalala6 View Post

Awesome review! Looking forward to more of your reviews. smily_headphones1.gif

Got something pretty exciting coming up, keep y'all updated!

post #14 of 86

Great informative review and you gave some particular insights that are helpful.  My first headphone was the ATH-M50, can you tell me if the sound signature is comparable to that sound or is more like the CKS77, both of which I own?

post #15 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaddyMojo View Post

Great informative review and you gave some particular insights that are helpful.  My first headphone was the ATH-M50, can you tell me if the sound signature is comparable to that sound or is more like the CKS77, both of which I own?

You will be surprised at his response.

I owned the cks77s. The im02 and cks77s are vastly different. It has less bass quantity, but nearly unparallaled quality in comparison.

Mids are thinner and less lush, but are still slightly warm.

Highs are similar with the im02s being smoother but latently sibilant.

This response is to help you digest the further commemts you will read from thatonenoob.
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