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Vibro Labs Aria quad armature in-ear monitor

Rating:
4/5,
  1. Hisoundfi
    Inaugural flagship in-ear monitor from Vibro Labs. The ARIA quad armature driver earphone from Vibro Labs
    Written by Hisoundfi
    Published Feb 20, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Sound quality, Impressive bass performance, Transient response, Extension on both ends, Hand made and extraordinary build quality
    Cons - No microphone/remote cable included, Sound varies between custom and universal, Pricey for an in-ear monitor
    20160220_133103.jpg
    At the time of the review, the Vibro Aria was was on sale on the Vibro Labs website. Here is a link to their listing of the product:
     
    http://vibrolabs.com/
     
    Introduction
    My Head-Fi journey continues to evolve. With each new purchase or review, I get a little more versed. Not only in what I consider to be good/better/best, but I also get to see what the world of high end personal audio has to offer.
     
    Over the course of our audio journeys we develop personal preferences in search of our own audio nirvana. Am I to the point that I would consider myself an audiophile? I guess that depends on who you ask and what the qualifying criteria is. I try to not put a label on myself or what part I play in this hobby. Just like many people on Head-Fi, the most important thing for me is to find gear that maximizes my enjoyment of high fidelity music and share this experience with my friends. I hope that I can help others in their pursuit of audio perfection by sharing my experience with the gear I sample.
     
    My Head-Fi journey started out by reading reviews and buying cheap earphones in an effort to enjoy my favorite music and movies while keeping the lady in the apartment downstairs from asking me to turn my stereo down all the time. Fast forward to present day, I am sitting behind a keyboard in the dedicated listening room that I call my “Lab” surrounded by hoards of in-ear monitors, headphones, laptops, DACs, DAPs, amplifiers, speakers and cables, still searching, still looking to maximize my listening experience. I’m a headphone geek and I’m not ashamed of it!
     
    It’s truly an exciting time for headphones and in-ear monitors. We have seen the bar raised time and time again at every price point. My time spent reviewing has not only given me a chance to inform the Head-Fi community about exciting new products, it has also given me a new perspective and understanding of how things work in the game of earphones.
     
    I’ve had some really special moments in this hobby that I didn’t think were possible when I first started participating on the Head-Fi threads. I’ve rubbed elbows and made friends with some of the pioneers of this hobby. What I’ve come to find out is that a majority of them are down to earth people that have taken their passion for audio to a level further than I have.
     
    Being able to write reviews and see them occasionally make the front page is an awesome honor. Let it be known that it doesn’t take some special superpowers to write reviews. I treat every review like an opportunity to tell my friends what is good and bad about a particular product. Being transparent and honest has opened doors for manufacturers to occasionally ask me if I would mind listening to a pre production earphone and tell them what I think before it is released. Today I will be sharing and reviewing one of these products, the Vibro Aria.
     
    I met Luke when I purchased a Vibro Veritas. It’s a measuring device used to measure frequency response of in-ear monitors. If you are curious to learn a bit more about it, here is a write up:
     
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/782241/vibro-veritas-in-ear-monitor-home-measuring-device-reviews-and-impressions-by-brooko-twister6-hisoundfi
     
    Long story short, Luke is Vibro Labs. He’s an engineer who graduated from the University of Maine. I first started chatting with him when I was trying to get my Veritas to work with my computer. You might know him as the guy who stepped on Noble’s toes with a particular tear down video of which I won’t go into great detail about. Let it be known that since then Luke has removed the video from the web, admitting that it was unprofessional. At this point it is water under the bridge and a lesson learned. Luke is a funny guy and borderline genius when it comes to manufacturing and troubleshooting. He has a lot to offer the audio world.
     
    Luke is a business partner and designer of the wooden cups for ZMF. This worked out great because I had already spoken with Zach (Mister ZMF) several times and was in the process of reviewing his Omni. The conversation turned in-ear monitors and what we thought would be an ideal design. We tossed around the ideas of hybrids and multi-driver IEMs. Luke later told me that he had been researching and tinkering with various drivers, and was planning on releasing a high end earphone soon. I volunteered as tribute to be a part of the beta process. Zach’s name was also thrown into the hat, and thus began the Aria project.
     
    Luke was the brains and manufacturer, Zach was the artist and voice of reason, and I was the critic and comedic relief that made sure everyone’s IQ was lowered a few points each and every day. You might get a feel for the humor if you’ve seen the “alternative” add for the Aria that Luke has posted. I swear, for every bit of progress we made, there were lots of jokes cracked and many laughs. The process worked, and although there were forks in the roads and speed bumps that made this a long journey it was well worth it. The final product is phenomenal in my opinion. .
     
    I got my first set of custom impressions done November of last year. I shipped them off to Luke, and a few weeks later the first version of Aria arrived.
     
    The first tuning was very dark and bassy and needed a lot of work. From that point the Aria was returned and retuned several times. Luke had taken on quite a challenge because my preferences were a bit different from Zach’s in terms of what we considered to be ideal sound. Various tunings ranged from very bassy to bright and linear. At certain points there was a level of frustration and questions of whether or not we could agree on a sound that satisfied everyone’s preference. Even when we thought the final tuning was complete, a general consensus decided to make some more minor tweaks. The goal was to offer a complete and refined sound that doesn’t fit into a category or cater to a specific preference. I truly believe that the final tuning has accomplished this goal. The Aria sounds awesome.
     
    I started this process having no idea how multi-driver in-ears worked, and to be honest I still won’t be able to tell you everything that goes into the making of Aria. What I can tell you is that Luke was able to communicate with Zach and myself, combine our feedback with his, and turn the Aria into one of the most incredible earphones I’ve ever heard. I also learned some things along the way.
     
    I want to be very clear in saying that I didn’t seek or want any financial compensation in the making of this earphone. I paid for the parts needed to construct my pair. My compensation was being allowed to be part of the project, learn more about the production side of making a great earphone, and having my input play a key role in the design and tuning. This whole thing has been a unique and amazing experience.
     
    Disclaimer
    I was given an opportunity to beta test and review the Aria in exchange for my honest opinion and review. Aside from some fun conversation and suggestive input on the Aria, I am in no way affiliated with Vibro Labs. I would like to take this time to personally thank Luke and Zach for the opportunity to be a part of the tuning process.
     
    My Background
    I AM NOT a numbers and graphs audiophile or sound engineer. Personal audio enthusiast? Absolutely! Headphone junkie? Possibly…
     
    There’s something about quality DAPs, DACs, Amplifiers and Earphones that intrigues me, especially if they can be had for low prices. I will buy the $5 to $500 earphone that looks promising, in hopes that I will discover that one new gem that can compete with the big names in this industry. If you look at my Head-Fi profile you will see that I have purchased MANY different headphones and earphones, ranging from from dirt cheap to higher end products. For me, this hobby is more about getting great price to performance ratio from a product, and have a variety of different gears with varying builds and sound to mix and match. With personal audio gear, we tend to pay a lot of money for minor upgrades. One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that just because a headphone has a higher price tag, it doesn’t mean that it has superior build and sound quality.
     
    I’m always looking for great audio at a great price. I’m after headphones and IEMs that give me the “WOW” factor. I can appreciate different builds and sound signatures as long as they are ergonomic, and the sound is pleasing to the ear. It is my pleasure to share my experiences with audio products and make recommendations based gear I have owned and used.
     
    REVIEW
    20160220_133055.jpg
    The Aria comes in a heavy duty clear plastic Pelican case. It is an waterproof and airtight case that has a locking tab on the front. A carabiner is attached for latching the case to the side of a suitcase, backpack, or luggage etc. A Vibro Labs logo sticker is adhered to the top of the package.
     
    20160220_133115.jpg
    The bottom of the case features a certificate of authenticity. It has a serial number and signature from Luke, along with a model number and personalized note of who the product was made for. I think making the certificate a part of the case is genius and prevents the card from becoming unwanted clutter, while also protecting it from wear.
     
    20160220_133153.jpg
    Opening the package reveals a foam cutout the Aria and accessories in place. The foam is cut to hold each piece of the package securely and give the product a nice visual effect. There is a nice layout which displays the housings, cable, and earwax cleaning tool. Also included are some stickers if you’re into scrapbooking. Just kidding...unless you really are into that, then yes, you have something for your headphone scrapbook. Either that, or you can stick them anywhere you want…within reason.

     
    Specifications and Accessories
     
    Specifications

    Impedance:     15Ω @ 1KHZ

    Sensitivity:     110DB SPL/MW

    Response:     20HZ – 20KHZ+

    Isolation:     -26DB

     
    Accessories
    1x Pelican carrying case
    1x Certificate of ownership (included in the case)
    1x Earwax cleaning tool
    1x Braided detachable two pin cabled
    1x Pair Aria housings
     
    NOTE: The Aria universal comes with three sets of Comply foam ts-500 tips (S/M/L)

     
    Housings
    20160220_133308.jpg
    The first of mine and Luke’s conversation about what would make for an awesome earphone is the shell. We both agreed that semi transparent smoke colored shells would be epic. REAL wood faceplates were also a must because it is a continuation of the work Luke had already done when making custom Grado cups. Luke chose Arizona ironwood for plates. Let it be known that every single faceplate will be of a unique wood pattern because it’s hand carved and made from real wood. Luke will carve each faceplate by hand, put shiny clear coat over it, then make it fit seamlessly with the shells. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
     
    20160220_133432.jpg
    The Aria is constructed from a 3d printed acrylic shells. There is a Vibro Labs logo printed on each custom shell, along with the owner's initials printed into the plastic, adding a welcomed level of personalization that’s really cool.
     
    20160218_103529.jpg
    The Aria universal is also a 3D printed shell with the same design aspects. The beta sample is in my possession and fits great. While this photo will give you an idea of what the universal will look like, there are some minor shape adjustments to the shell and tip planned to make things even more ergonomic.
     
    20160220_133555.jpg
    The housings seem very well constructed and I had no issues with any of the beta pairs. The combination of translucent smoke shells and wood faceplates gives them a really cool appearance, like pieces of high tech organic alien space matter. looking closely under the lights reveals the high tech internals.
     
    20160220_133242.jpg
    Aria is a four driver set up with a zero offset crossover. It utilizes pairs of dual woofers and dual tweeters. Don’t let that lead you to think that not having a mid range armature is going to make the midrange lacking in any way. The midrange is in balance with the rest of the sound and extraordinarily well done.
     
    Cable, Y-Split, Cable Jack, Strain Reliefs
    20160220_135544.jpg
    A black braided two pin cable comes with the Aria. It checks all the boxes for me. It consists of silver braided tinsel over a nylon core. It is slightly longer than the average in-ear monitor cable, and has virtually no spring or memory. It is a bit on the thin side but seems very durable. There is a short memory wire that extends about two inches from the two pin plugs.
     
    The Y-split is a very durable piece of firm rubber. There is a clear plastic chin/neck slider that works great.
     
    The Aria cable has a ninety degree 3.5 mm gold plated jack with a firm rubber housing. Strain reliefs are very adequate.
     
    Functionality
    DSC_00022.jpg
    The cable that comes with the Aria doesn’t have any microphone or remote features. Being someone who often listens to in-ear monitors on my LG G3 while on the go, I would have liked this to be a feature of the product. I’m happy to say that I found a budget two pin cable with three button microphone and remote options that work well for both Android and Iphone. I made sure to test and measure the earphones with both cables. The phone cable I bought didn’t seem to impact the sound to my ears and frequency response measurements. Here is a link if you are interested:
     
    DSC_00192.jpg
    http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Earphone-Cable-With-Mic-Remote-For-Westone-ES3X-ES5-UM2-UM3XRC-UM3x-W4R-4-LN005016/32378094178.html
     
    Ergonomics, Fit and Microphonics, Isolation
     
    Since there are two designs I will break them down separately:
     
    Custom Shell
    20151212_035037-2.jpg
    The fit of the Aria is fantastic. I don’t need to go into detail for those who have custom in-ear monitors, but for those who don’t, just know that it provides a secure level of seal and isolation that universals can not come close to. The Arizona ironwood shells sit flush and when inserted it is a sleek and high end look. Although I am not a fan of memory wire for the most part, in this case it is an added benefit. The custom shell fits so securely that I don’t get any resistance or unwanted resistance from the wire. In this case the memory wire operates more as a form of prevention from cables rubbing against my ear and preventing irritation.
     
    Universal Shell
    20160211_104039.jpg
    This will remain blank until the final production model comes in. for now I will say that the beta unit fits great and seals better than the average in-ear monitor. The memory wire works well to help promote a secure over the ear fit.
     
    Because both earphones are designed for over the ear fitment, cable noise is not an issue.


     
    Sound Review
    I did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-G3 with the latest firmware for portable and smartphone use, and either my Shanling H3 or Sony Walkman F806/Cayin C5 amplifier for a high fidelity portable use. For desktop use I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a HIFIMEDIY Sabre ES9023 USB DAC/Bravo Audio Ocean Tube amplifier with a Mullard 12AU7 tube for higher impedance, and a Fiio E18 USB DAC & Amplifier in both high and low gain. Both were run at 24 bit, 96000 Hz. I also tested them with other DAPs and amplifiers as well. I used Google Music downloaded in its highest download quality (320 KBPS) and I also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I also used purchased and downloaded tracks in MP3, FLAC, WAV and DSD. I make sure that any gear I test has sufficient playtime before writing a review.
     
    I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
    “Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
    “Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
    “Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
    “Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
    “Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
    “The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
    “Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
    “Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
    “One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
    “Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
    “Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
    “And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
    “Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
     
    Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to assess and break down the gear’s response.
     
    Source Selection
    At fifteen ohms, the Aria is easy to drive. One thing I really like about them is that they sounded great through my cell phone streaming Google Music, but also upscaled well with higher quality sources. Aria is a very revealing earphone. They will expose poorly recorded music. Their tuning is VERY true to the recording. You will be able to identify low bitrate music, and although they are not sibilant earphones by nature they will expose sibilant recordings without being unbearably harsh. To add to this, high bit rate and well mastered recordings will sound that much better also. Plugging them into a high fidelity source with some FLAC or DSD on low gain, they are one of the best sounding in ear monitors I’ve ever heard, period.
     
    The question I asked myself was “For the asking price, can I purchase an earphone AND digital audio player that trumps the sound quality of the Aria with an up to date smartphone streaming at 16/48K?” That is a tough question that I can’t give a definitive answer to.
     
    Sound Signature
    Before we begin to talk about sound signature, let it be known that the driver configuration of both models are identical. They also both measured similarly on my Vibro Veritas. Despite this, they sounded differently to my ears because of the depth of insertion and seal. The custom model is bassier, warmer and more relaxed at upper frequencies. The shallower insertion and decreased isolation of the universal yields a more natural, neutral, linear and brighter sound. Bouncing back and forth between the two, it’s hard to say which one I prefer. I might prefer the universal sound by just a bit.
     
    Aria Custom
    DSC_00162.jpg
    The Aria custom is a warm tilted earphone with a solid and extended bass response that avoids venturing into basshead territory and leads into a pretty smooth but also very extended treble presentation.
     
    ViboARIAcustom.png
     
    Aria custom’s sub bass is legendary. There are moments I have while listening to the them where I’m blown away by how impressive the sub bass tones are. Mid bass is slightly forward but also very high in resolution..
     
    Lower midrange follows along the bass response and puts a touch of added warmth on male vocals to my ears. Timbre and texture is robust, and resolution is at a premium. The Aria custom's lower frequencies present an armature response with a dynamic feel. There’s phenomenal balance from the lowest of bass notes all the way through the Aria midrange.
     
    NOTE: The Aria custom sounds best with a neutral source. Using a warmer sounding source with the Aria custom made the midbass and lower midrange venture toward seeming slightly stuffy and congested to my ears.
     
    A slight roll off at upper midrange sounds with a small bump at 5k and just past 10K gives them a sense of limitless extension and excellent transient response while remaining smooth. This upper frequency tuning prevents any sense of them being shouty or piercing at the sibilant 6-8k region. Cymbal crashes sound very natural and smooth. I never get the sense of harsh highs that many armature earphones produce..
     
    The custom model has a more intimate soundstage than the universal. Imaging is phenomenal because of the combination of power and detail.
     
    Although it works well with all genres, I especially like the Aria custom with rock, hip hop, EDM, female vocals and acoustic music.
     
    There’s no limit in terms of what sounds it can produce at any part of the sound spectrum. The Aria custom is a robust, engaging and detailed sound that works well with just about any genre. If you want powerful and dynamic sound with complimentary treble detail and extension, the Aria custom is definitely the answer.
     
    Aria Universal
    20160211_122835.jpg
    I received the Aria universal after the custom, and wasn’t expecting there to be a big difference between the sound of the two earphones. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The universal tuning is a leaner and colder sounding earphone to my ears. Although they measure somewhat similarly, the shallower fit and less isolation makes them a different earphone all together.
     
    VibroAriaUniversal.png
     
    Bass on the universal is leaner and even faster in attack and decay than the custom, with the same  fantastic extension and tone. Mid bass on the universal is reduced, providing more resolution and separation at the expense of some awesome dynamics. If anything the universal could use just a touch more warmth and timbre from what I heard.
     
    NOTE: Just the opposite of the Aria custom, I felt that the universal benefits from a warm sounding source. A little bump in the midbass and lower midrange took the universal sound and added a dimension of timbre and dynamics that in my opinion improves their sound.
     
    Midrange is very natural and airy with lots of detail. Male and female vocals sounded very natural. Overall, the resolution is razor sharp. Every single detail can be heard. The upper midrange roll off is still there but it is more controlled.
     
    There was slightly more spike around 5k making them crisper and less spike around 10k. The Aria universal was more snappy and detailed, but also more revealing of sibilant sounds. I can imagine some people thinking they are a little bright up top, depending on what they use for a source and what songs and music files they use. Transient response is still incredibly natural but with an added crispness as compared to the custom.
     
    Playing FLAC and DSD through my L&P L5 on low gain, the Aria universal sounded awesome. They also sounded particularly good with streaming music from my phone (which has a slightly warmer sound). It also seemed to work better with all genres of music. This all came at the expense of having a custom fit and superior isolation.
     
    Overall, the universal had less color, with more clarity and neutrality to its sound. Soundstage seemed bigger and more spread out because of this. Imaging was on par with the custom model.
     
    If I had to choose between the two right now, I’m not sure because they both have their particular strengths. I think this one will come down to preference and application. For me, I might give a slight edge to the universal because of its slightly more natural sound and resale value. Your mileage may vary.
     
    Conclusion
    Upon the conclusion of this review, the Aria has become one of my most favorite pair of earphones I’ve owned. I can’t say they are the greatest earphone I’ve ever heard because that title currently goes to the Shure KSE 1500 ($3000) or Noble K10 ($1500+). Still, for the asking price you are getting a great looking and great sounding handmade pair of earphones.
     
    I thoroughly enjoy the sound of the Aria. They are a universally engaging tuning that won’t leave very many people disappointed. I could listen it all day long and not lose interest in their entertaining sound signature.
     
    20160220_133308.jpg
    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
      Mython, Brooko, taiden and 7 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. brams
      Interesting experience with the universal version of these iems which I just received two days ago. Flat, overly sibilant, bright and uninvolving unless you use tips that that create not just a good seal, but also allow the proper insertion depth.

      The supplied foam ear tips did not work for me. Instead, the Comply foamies with the tapered, cylindrical profile were essential to enable the sound tuning described by Vibro Labs. Comparing both, my assumption is that the ones I used simply allowed a deeper insertion due to the tapered profile.

      Had I not found those lying around these iems would have been returned. Given the reference level sound I am now hearing that would have been a shame.

      I suggest that Vibro Labs add this style of foamies to the standard packaging.

      Since my impressions with a proper fit are essentially identical to @Hisoundfi (including his comment relative to the k10) I won't bother to repeat them. Excellent sounding unit with caveats noted.
      brams, Jul 17, 2016
    3. linux4ever
      @brams, can you please post the model# of the tapered comply foam ear tips? or the link where one can buy them?
      linux4ever, Aug 10, 2016
    4. brams
      They are the Comply isolation tips.  From the Comply website the ones designed to fit the Aria are the T-600.  They are designed for maximum isolation and expand with heat to seal the ear canal.  I was also able to insert them more deeply.
       
      The foam tips original supplied with the Aria appear to be the TS-600 or similar.  They are designed for comfort.  Since they provide low ear canal contact they simply do not seal as well.
       
      In my opinion Vibro Labs should supply both versions so the user can assess the difference in performance between the two or only the T-600 if they can only supply one style.  Since a good seal is important for any earphone going for a close to neutral signature Vibro Labs may be doing themselves a disservice by not including foamies that maximize sealing and allow the true potential of these iems to be realized. 
      brams, Aug 10, 2016
  2. meringo
    A Design and Signature Everyone Can Appreciate
    Written by meringo
    Published May 1, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Hand made in USA, Excellent bass and treble extension, Luke's customer service, Value
    Cons - A little hot in upper mids/lower treble, cable tangles easily
    After deciding that I’d need about $1K to get the sound I was after, I was getting frustrated with the IEM world. After all, I could just buy the OPPO PM3 for $400, call it a day, and deal with the size and storage… but the thought of complete isolation and perfect fit kept me going. I eventually found myself clicking a link from ZMF’s website to a company called Vibro Labs. They were running an introductory price of $599 for a quad custom, with beautiful wooden faceplates. Not only did that undercut competition, but the site seemed honest explaining the components used. I knew exactly what I was getting, which was top shelf parts, made by an American here in America, under the roof of a small business. Luke Pighetti was a pleasure to do business with. He is a smart, proud craftsman that was quick to answer all of my questions. I quickly began to believe and pulled the trigger almost instinctually. A month later, My Aria arrived.

     
    The Aria arrived in an awesome clear Pelican Case, proudly displaying the Aria. The cable is longer than most other IEMs I own, which I really have come to appreciate. It never gets caught on things and lightweight. With that being said, it’s very easy to tangle. Luckily it’s easy enough to change out if it becomes a nuisance.
     
    IMG_0274.jpg
     
    Build quality is top notch, but I do have one complaint – the engraving. I can clearly see the white Vibro markings, but there is something else engraved that I cannot make out. It appears to be on both earpieces. I think it would have been better if those areas were just smoothed over. With such high-quality craftsmanship everywhere else, this pained me a bit.
     
    Sound:
     
    Test Tracks:
    I spent a lot of time crafting this list to test various aspects of all headphones and IEMs. I’m sure it will evolve, but see this lineup for all of my reviews going forward.
     
    Stevie Wonder – Superstition
    David Bowie –Starman
    Queens of the Stone Age – No One Knows
    Christopher Paul Sterling -- Revenge
    Avantasia – The Scarecrow
    Stone Temple Pilots – Interstate Love Song
    Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse – Body and Soul
    St. Vincent -- Birth in Reverse
    Nine Inch Nails – Copy of A
     
    The Aria sound is a pure delight for just about every genre. Bass heads likely will skip this one, but those looking for a neutral to bright signature will be in heaven.
     
    Bass:
    Aria's bass extension is incredible, but not overbearing on the signature. The only way I can describe it was like going from a Philips X2 dynamic to a HiFiMAN HE-400i planar. Everything is cleaned up, with deep extension but with less emphasis. Not matter what seemed to be going on in the music, the dynamics, and overall bass response remained intact.
     
    Mids:
    Vocals were a pleasant surprise. Since there isn’t a dedicated driver for mids, I was worried that this IEM would come off slightly V-shaped, or at least some sort of noticeable dip in volume here. I was wrong. Mids are slightly forward in the signature, having a little heat to them. It wasn’t what I was used to, but I sure do appreciate it.
     
    Highs:
    The clarity and extension of the treble is Aria’s strong suit. Cymbals come out sparkly, detail is all there, nothing messes with it from the bass or mids. This helps with the soundstage, giving everything a big sound without coming off as too unnatural. Well done, Vibro Labs.
     
    Final Thoughts:
    The Aria is a fantastic first effort by Vibro Labs. I’m glad that the Aria perform well above my expectations and have caused me to look forward to my hour-long daily commute. Who can say that, right?
     
    **Edit as of 5/31/16**
     
    The Aria are in my ears 90% of the time, and I just bought LCD2s. Think of this as a Jaguar F type, car people. You get your hands on a super car, not knowing how to drive it or appreciate what the car can do. Once you do, you've reached Nirvana. The F type has a sound unlike any other... I'd say the Aria is that IEM. When i first reviewed the Aria, I was just inexperienced with top shelf gear, especially customs. I didn't want to give an "over excited" impression.
      taiden, onyxwulf and Luke Pighetti like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. egosumlux
      I just want to know how they one compared with something like the Westone 30 or 40. Can someone provide some feedback about it?
      egosumlux, May 23, 2016
    3. egosumlux
      I just want to know how they one compared with something like the Westone 30 or 40. Can someone provide some feedback about it?
      egosumlux, May 23, 2016
    4. meringo
      For $600, they were a steal. My experience with customs is limited so I didn't want to come off as too excited about my shiny new toy. Still as of today, the Aria is my favorite headphone. The bass extension is phenomenal and clarity puts them above my LCD2. -- my most expensive, and also new headphone.
      meringo, May 31, 2016
  3. ustinj
    Vibro Labs's Aria has high potential ... but not as expected
    Written by ustinj
    Published Jun 2, 2016
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Fun sound signature, Bass and treble extension, Faceplate quality
    Cons - Scooped/recessed mids, value, misleading launch
    Vibro Labs: Aria (custom & universal)
     
    This review is probably going be a little bit different from usual, as I have been given the amazing opportunity to hear and use both the custom and universal version of the Vibro Labs Aria. The review will be honest and holistic -- I'll factor in the sound of the Aria, as well as everything else about it (build, design, whatnot). 
     
    - Vibro Labs
    - ARIA
            - Packaging
            - Sound
            - Design, Fit & Finish
                    - Custom
                    - Universal
    - Conclusions & Value
     
    Vibro Labs
     
    Vibro Labs is a relatively young company, presenting us with the Aria as their debut product. I found the Aria through a post on Reddit. Luke, the man behind Vibro, has been a pleasure to deal with. Realistically, service has been rather positive. Luke will almost always reply to your emails within a day, and is easy to talk to while answering all the questions you might have.
     
    In summary, Vibro Labs has been fantastic in terms of trying their best to satisfy their customers. I've had a long trip with the Arias resolving my issues, and each individual concern was taken care of by Luke. He has been fantastic in solving my multiple fit issues, eventually leading to a full-on reshell that Luke generously did at no extra charge. If service and communication are factors in your decision to do business with Vibro Labs, you don't have anything to be concerned about. 
     
     


     
     
    The Product: ARIA
     
    For reference, the site description and frequency response of the Aria's sound is as follows:
     
     

     
     
    [​IMG]
     
    The aspects that drove me to pursue the Aria as my first CIEM* were its advertised appearance, sound description, and value. The idea of owning a flagship was exciting, new, and so tempting. At last, I could escape my mid-fi purgatory and enter true hi-fi! I decided to jump the gun and purchase the Aria at its initial launch. The price paid was $599 -- the most I've ever spent on an audio product. This was my first premium experience. 
     
     

     
    Aria: Packaging
     
    The Aria arrived three months after payment, due to some delays I had getting proper impressions done. They came in their transparent pelican case, which was wrapped inside a bubble-wrapped envelope. To be quite honest, the packaging could have been a bit better for the premium experience that I was expecting. It would be nice if they at least came in a Vibro labeled cardboard box (or at least a sleeve), for those who want to ensure the pristine condition of the shiny, clear pelican case. This didn't bother me so much as it did my friend, who also happened to grab an Aria. 
     
    The Pelican case is filled with a laser-cut foam cutout, with a slot for the cleaning tool, cable, and Arias themselves. I assume the cutout is mainly for display, as the foam seems to be a bit of a hassle to put the Arias back into. The cleaning tool fits perfectly, the Arias fit fine, but the slot for the cable is very tight and takes a while to stuff it all in there. Apart from that, the Pelican case is very nice and rugged. I have since then purchased another Pelican case, as they are super awesome. 
     
     

     
    Aria: Sound
     
    From the site description, I had a very specific sound in mind for the Aria. I was expecting a deep, detailed bass; full and lush mids; topped off with relaxed yet detailed highs. The frequency response further cemented this expectation -- a gradually sloping sound, smooth and mostly void of peaks.
     
    At first, I had various issues with the fitment of the Arias (custom). Luke was by my side in helping me resolve the issues, and diligently took care of every detail. Kudos to Vibro Labs for the service, again. I won't go into detail about how the initial, unfitted sound was; but only focus on the final product that I have heard.
     
    I found that the sound of the universal Aria and the custom Aria were very similar ... but: 
     
    Lows
     
    The bass, in my opinion, is one of the primary highlights of the Aria. I would like to say that the low frequencies are just slightly above neutral -- it is by no means a basshead IEM, but it will definitely satisfy the desires of most listeners. The bass is incredibly full and comes with fantastic impact. Just as described, it extends incredibly deep and just feels like it goes on forever. To my ears, it seems to be flat throughout the bass -- the subbass is only a tad bit less pronounced than the midbass, unlike most other IEMs I've heard. 
     
    Unlike the dynamic drivers I've heard, the Aria pulls off the low end with great speed and detail at the cost of heavy impact. Don't take that the wrong way -- it's still full and hits with a lot of body, but just not at the eardrum vibrating levels you'd feel with a bass-heavy dynamic driver.
     
     
     
    Mids
     
    Oh, how amazing the Aria would be if it were not for its biggest shortcoming: the midrange. The Aria seems to be a downward slope for the most parts except for some sort of elusive issue with the mids. Even without any other IEMs for comparison, I couldn't help but feel that many male vocals, as well as some deep female vocals, were a little bit off. Switching between tracks brought me to the conclusion that the Aria had a quick and dramatic dip in the lower midrange. In other words, vocals had an obvious sense of hollowness and thinness. However, in some tracks I've listened to, the Aria simply can't be beat regardless of its quirky midrange. If you are a fan of electronic or EDM, you will find the Aria to be acceptable -- many modern tracks feature female vocals, and the Aria's tilted upper midrange should work just fine with those (paired with good bass and highs).
     
    The custom ARIA's mids were a little less recessed than the universal.
     
     
    Highs
     
    Back to the good part. The Aria has very well-done highs. They're very well extended on both the low and high end. An attribute that I noticed is that the treble is very rarely fatiguing. I've read that some other reviewers felt some "hotness" on the treble and upper mids. The only times that I could detect sibilance was when I was turning the volume up to make up for the pushed back mids -- other than that, it strikes a nice balance between being politely sharp and overly sizzly. As a result, the sound is wonderfully airy and spacious.
     
    It naturally follows that the Aria's ability to reproduce details is superb at its asking price. Being my first venture into balanced armatures, the Aria really puts into perspective what kind of sound I had been missing out on. If you've always been listening to dynamic drivers, the Aria will definitely be a treat for your ears. In sum, the Aria's highs are well-extended while never being sibilant or fatiguing. It oozes microdetail and is the other highlight of the Aria's sound. 
     
     
    Overall Sound Signature
     
    I have very mixed feelings about the Aria's sound. Though it wasn't the relaxed-highs-liquidy-sound I was expecting, it did show me that I didn't want those laid back highs, and could do without spewing gobs of thick bass. Bass is tastefully executed at an amount that just sounds so right to my ears. Details are well done as it has completely changed my tonal preference. However, the hollow vocal timbre is very noticeable and makes the singer sound recessed, breaking any sense of coherency. If anything, the Aria is a natural-neutral sounding tone apart from the drastically scooped-out mids. Bass is only slightly elevated and highs are never too artificial or tinny. The lower-mid dip sort of detracts from the overall cohesiveness of the sound.
     

     
     
    Aria: Design, Fit & Finish (there's gonna be a lot of pics!)
     
    CUSTOM ARIA 
     
     
    [​IMG]

     

    I initially had the Aria in custom form. As you can see, the faceplates that Luke selected for my customs are absolutely GORGEOUS. The grain is beautiful in its multifaceted colors, and I could actually spend quite a bit of time just marveling at the left monitor. The right one was pretty cool too, but something about the left just drew me in. Note that pictures don't tell the entire story -- though they are beautiful, the Arias actually aren't that glossy in person. The custom Aria's faceplate quality is exceptional, in my opinion. I couldn't imagine that it gets any better than these woods. 

     

    However, one downside to the fit and finish is the 3D printed shells. Though 3D printing shells probably can make the process a lot simpler in terms of fitment and such, there seems to be some artifacts of the 3D printing process. Taking a look at the picture below, you can see that there is an unpleasant mucus-looking texture on the inside of the custom Arias. However, it seems as if this texture varies from unit to unit, as other Arias I've looked at pictures of have different amounts (some even being mostly clear). I was not particularly a huge fan of the shell appearance, though the faceplates were really enticing. 

     

     

    [​IMG]

     

     

    Here's another photo of that gorgeous, beautiful, amazing faceplate.

     

    [​IMG]

     

     

    ...

     
    UNIVERSAL ARIA
     
    Luke has been a very big help with resolving some minor fit issues I had with the custom Aria. In the end, I have spent approximately $750+ trying to get the fit perfect, but there was always something small that bothered me. Luke was willing to resolve all issues by converting the Aria to a universal fit -- essentially, this would also resolve the appearance issues that I had with the custom. The universal shells are a lot cleaner looking and have very few markings.
     
    FIXED: Aesthetics
    The shells look a lot better now. They're mostly clear and I can actually see the internals! The faceplates, though it wasn't an issue in the first place, are STILL FREAKIN' GORGEOUS. Luke has done an outstanding job on the shell finish for the universals. 
     
     
    FIXED: Fit and Comfort
    Being universal, the fit is a lot easier on my sensitive ears and I don't really have any gripes about it. The shells are actually smaller than the custom version, but protrude the same amount. The tips that Luke included were a little bit too large for my canals, so I stretched on some standard Comply T-500s on there, which are a lot more comfortable. I don't detect any significant difference in sound. The nozzles are really big, actually bigger than the custom canals. You'll have to do some stretching to get the T-500s on there, I believe Luke is now using the Comply 600s (bigger). They might irritate you if you have small canals.
     
    Here are some more pictures of the universal IEMs. 
     
     
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] 
     
     
    ARIA: Conclusion & Value
     
    To be honest, I'm still conflicted with this part. The Arias are just shy of being a wonderful sounding earphone, as well as being well-built and designed. The mids are a real killjoy though. I would have no problem recommending them to anyone who wants a do-it-all IEM ... if only the dip in the mids were fixed. Spending more and more time with them just makes the dip more apparent to my ears, pulling vocalists further back into the abyss. It's kind of heartbreaking to see such a near-perfect creation being taken down by one single aspect the sound. Luckily there is hope, as I have heard that Luke is working diligently on figuring out the source of the scoop. If Luke is able to pull it off (which he always does), we may find ourselves with a fantastic value IEM that is hard to beat at the $500-$600 asking point. 
     
    I did note that I got hands on a couple of other IEMs in the past month -- this has changed my entire frame of reference on the Aria and called for a rewrite of the review. These IEMs would be the ATH-IM02, Alclair RSM, TFZ Series 5, and Unique Melody Miracle. If anyone wants comparisons, shoot me a message and I can do a quick writeup.
     
    But in terms of context, I am hesitant to recommend the Aria at it's current $699/$599 asking price. The universal Aria is a different story, as the design, fit, and finish are superb... but the dip in the mids seem somewhat unrefined and incoherent (it's a very sudden scoop out, unlike other v-shaped headphones), while there could be better technical performers in the same price range. Though the Aria is lacking in its mid refinement, the bass and treble is very well done. The Aria still manages to prove itself as an enjoyable, fun IEM -- but could be so much better without the mids issue.
     
    SUMMARY
     
    Service: 5/5 (great satisfaction)
    Sound: 3.5/5 (good lows, decent highs, poor mids)
    Build Quality: 4.5/5 (cable is seriously tight)
    Fit & Finish: 4.0/5 (universals are beautiful, custom has minor quirks)
    Value: 3.0/5 (sound is a huge factor, especially for $600+)
     
    Overall: 3.7/5 (conditional recommendation)
     

     
     
    UPDATE: I just wanted to address readers who may think argue the sound signature is 'meant' to be v-shaped, and that it is unfair for me to lower the score because of my sound preferences. This is an honest review and no bias factors have brought the score down. The main issue that lowered the sound score was the scooped-out nature of the mids. 
     
    1. My primary issue is that the description / sale that pushed me to buy Aria was a little bit misleading. The original, intended sound was not supposed to have laid-back mids (the current description set out by Vibro). Regardless of how you look at it, the Aria has been advertised multiple times as having 'forward, and clear mids'. The point of review is to factor in the differences between the advertised product, and the received product. I also contacted Vibro Labs prior to purchasing to ask if it was v-shaped due to having 2 woofers and 2 tweeters, they responded saying it was not v-shaped but flat/balanced.
     
    2. I do not feel as if my sound preferences were the reason I nitpicked the mids of the sound signature. If mids were just laid-back and the Aria was a v-shaped signature, I wouldn't have given the Aria 3.5/5 in sound. I don't mind a v-shaped signature -- 3 of my headphones that I've spent the longest time with in my life have been v-shaped signatures. But the mids are scooped-out. The dip is sudden and short, in a small region of the mids -- it just isn't very coherent.
     
    3. The Aria is very good at low and high end extension. If you can work with  recessed lower vocals, the Aria is a very good IEM. It is just not an accurate representation of what was described (forward, clear mids / balanced signature / flawless SLA shells). 
     
     
     
     
     
     
    1. View previous replies...
    2. ustinj
      @Crypticmx I would not say the Aria has an exceedingly large soundstage, though it does seem slightly larger vertically than horizontally. However, the imaging is pretty good in terms of placement; though the sounds don't seem very far/spaced away.
      ustinj, Jul 10, 2016
    3. ustinj
      @Crypticmx Oh yeah, but in terms of sound, I think the Aria does everything better than the Pinnacle P1 other than mids. 
      ustinj, Jul 10, 2016
    4. Dr4Bob
      Thanks for a detailed and most thoughtful review.
      Cheers!
      Dr4Bob, Jul 28, 2016
  4. Talai
    The Aria - focused on extension and refinement
    Written by Talai
    Published Jul 24, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Excellent refinement, solid control
    Cons - Lack of mids, pricey
    Hi Head-Fi/Vibro Labs fans,
     
    I was the second stop on the Aria tour, and I've had a great week reviewing them. This post will contain some of my thoughts and impressions, and I'll be touching on several different aspects of the Arias. We'll go over the build quality, appearance, and of course - sound quality.
     
    I won't hide the pictures - check them out at this link. I'll be referencing them throughout the review.
     

    Preface

    The way that Luke has (graciously) set up this tour is that every user will get a  week to gather their thoughts and impressions, and that's exactly what I've been doing over the past week. I've taken the Arias with me to work and just listened to them for large parts of the day in order to have enough time to put together some real impressions.
     
    If you'd like to see the playlist that I used for the most part, click here to check it out on Spotify. I keep it updated with all of the tracks that I use for critical listening. During my testing I ran the Arias through the iFi Micro iDAC 2 (with the iPurifier) for the most part, but there were also a few instances when I just ran them off of my Nexus 5X. All music was either Spotify streamed at 'extreme' quality (just 320 kbps) or played off of local FLAC files.
     
    Fair warning, I'm not a 'real' audiophile - I just like my music to sound good, and it's as simple as that. I'll be honest and objective in the review, but if I'm slightly off on some of my audio terms please forgive me :wink:
     

    Packaging, Accessories, and Build Quality

    Packaging
    The Arias arrived in great condition from @sq3rjick, and I'd attribute part of that to the excellent case that they ship with. It looks to be a variant of a Pelican or other high end travel case, and really does a great job of keeping everything safe and secure. It's got laser cut foam that fits really well inside, and that means that the Arias don't move at all once you have them in place. The case also includes an information card in the bottom with the model, serial number, and Luke's signature. Neat addition.
     
    Accessories
    This is a section I normally include in my reviews, but I'll keep it extra short in this one - the Arias are pretty standard accessories-wise, and I've found that in general most high end IEMs or customs will be similar to each other in this aspect. The tour edition included an absurd amount of Comply tips and alcohol cleaning pads, but the standard editions will include a more normal amount of tips. You'll get a cleaning tool as well. 
     
    Build Quality
    Okay, so the Arias are 3D printed. That's pretty cool, and it ended up working really well for the universal version. I'd be interested to see how that would pan out for a custom, but in theory it would end up being about the same final quality. If you run your finger across the surface of the Arias it feels perfectly smooth, but visually you can see the effects of 3D printing - it looks to be very slightly dimpled. It ends up being a really neat effect, and the shells are still very clear for being 3D printed. The internal components are easy to see, and you can tell that this set of Arias was very well built. The included cable is just your standard 2pin.
     
    Size wise, the Aria customs were surprisingly small. They fit into my ears really well and were really comfortable, and even though they were a universal version the Comply tips did a great job of noise isolation.
     
    I've only got two small complaints for build quality, the first being that the 'ripples' on the shell make the Arias less visually appealing when compared to your typical poured shell custom. The second concern is potentially more of an issue, and that is that the connector for the 2pin cable on the shell are at a slight angle. This means that the pins on the cable themselves will end up bending to fit into the shell properly (check out the pictures for an example of this). It's not a huge deal once you've got the cable inserted, but at least with this pair of Arias if you're switching cables more than a few times it would likely make the pins weaker from all the bending. If you've got an expensive aftermarket cable you'd want to be careful.
     

    Sound Quality


    Alright guys, I'm going to keep this section semi-short compared to the rest. I'm much better at just getting the main impressions out fast than going in-depth on comparisons and minute details, so that's what I'm going to do.
     
    Good things
    The highs/treble on the Arias are definitely a highlight. Good extension and a lot of reach makes songs that play well with treble really shine. I don't want to say that the sound signature is entirely V-shaped, but to my ears the focus has more treble than the advertised warm signature would suggest. 
     
    The bass is really good as well. It's very precise and controlled, and the extension is definitely up (or down?) there. If you really take the time to listen for it, there's a lot of detail and depth to the bass, and it's never boomy or overpowered. As a bass lover, this is something that I'm really happy about.
     
    So to recap what I'm trying to convey so far - we've got well controlled treble with really good extension, and we've got bass/sub-bass with exceptional quality and control.
     
    Not so good things
    The mids are where the the Arias start to struggle. The mids aren't as upfront as the rest of the sound, which almost makes them sound recessed with certain songs. This isn't to say that they sound bad, it's just that they aren't there in a lot of cases. If you're all about that treble life it won't be as much of an issue, but it's definitely something to keep in mind.
     
    Also in this section I have to include something... more on bass. A quick visit to the Vibro Labs website promotes the Arias as being warm, and possessing "deep bass extension". A warm signature does suggest high quality (and in some cases lots of) bass, but that's something that I felt was missing with the Arias. Yes, there is some bass (as covered earlier), but in my opinion it felt to be a bit lacking. My personal preference is a true 'warm' signature, with lots of high quality bass - which makes sense, as I'm a basshead. This isn't to say that the bass is poor quality, as it was very controlled and presented well. The sub-bass is really solid, but overall the quantity just wasn't there. Same takeaway as before - this might not be an issue for you, but it's something to keep in mind.
     

    Final Thoughts

    Yes, I have complaints, but overall I enjoyed my time with the Arias. While the mids most certainly could use some work, I still found my head bobbing and the music was enjoyable. They definitely made my week go by faster!
     
    Regarding purchase advice, I think that if you're looking at purchasing the Arias you should keep the price tag at the front of your mind. The universal version retails at $599, and the customs at $699, which does seem high to me for what you get. At that price point my personal choice would be to gloss over the Arias in favor of something with more bass power and mid refinement. Remember that $600 will buy you a lot in terms of sound quality (think Noble or 64 Audio), so keep comparisons in mind as well when making the final choice.
     
    In the end it does come down to sound preference, and keep in mind that my personal preferences may be different that your own.
     

     
    Thanks for reading the review guys, hope you enjoyed! I'll be looking forward to seeing more impressions in the coming weeks [​IMG] 
    Talai/Tristan
      sq3rjick, ustinj and onyxwulf like this.
    1. Luke Pighetti
      Hey Talai, thanks for the review. :) A few comments:
       
      It is a Pelican case that I put my sticker on! What a great case.
       
      The tour model's jack is at a slight angle as you noted, I fixed this for all future Arias just the other day. Hooray progress!
       
      You described Arias unique tuning quite well. Fast, controlled, deep subbass without the boom of a warmer sig. I like it. Highs are extended and controlled. Sweet. Mids are relaxed, so it's not quite a reference signature. For people looking for a reference sig... stay tuned. :wink:
       
      For people looking for a unique, fun, versatile, U-shaped and extended tune with exotic hardwood, Aria is for you!
       
      Cheers!
      Luke Pighetti, Aug 17, 2016
  5. EagleWings
    An Excellent All Rounder
    Written by EagleWings
    Published Aug 16, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Speed, Dynamics, Treble, Extensions
    Cons - Lower Mids, Technical Capabilities could have been slightly better
    INTRODUCTION:
     
    Vibro Labs announced a review tour for their IEM, Aria in the US and I did not want to miss the chance. The first time I heard the name Vibro was when someone mentioned their IEM measuring equipment Vibro Veritas, which is an affordable equipment that anyone (with some learning definitely) can use to measure their IEM's characteristics such as Frequency Response etc. (I am sure it can measure many more aspects but my knowledge on the subject is limited). And then when I googled for Vibro, what showed up in the video results, piqued my interest even more. Vibro had posted a video on youtube on how to build your own BA IEM. I was pretty impressed with the company's educative attitude. Then when I heard that they had launched an IEM, I was very curious as to how it sounded and definitely wanted to give it a listen. So when the opportunity presented itself, I did not take a second to think.
     
    The terms of the agreement was that each participant of the tour would have a chance to audition the Aria universal IEM for 7 days. In return the participant will have to write an honest review after the audition on Head-Fi. Hence here is me fulfilling my terms, by offering my honest review. If you'd like to learn more about the review tour, please check out this thread.
     
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/811929/vibro-labs-introduction-usa-tour-and-head-fi-discount
     
    SPECIFICATIONS & PRODUCT INFO:
     
    http://vibrolabs.com/
    IMG_5481.jpg

     
    HARDWARE & FIT:
     
    The universal version of Aria I received for review, had a Burl wooden faceplate and 3-D printed shell in smoke color. It was well built and I couldn’t find any flaw with the finish. I liked that the nozzle on the universal had a flange in the end so that tips wouldn’t slip off. The tour package came with Comply tips. I prefer Silicone tips over Foam. JVC Spiral Dots fit like a glove and offered good seal and comfort. The contours of the IEM is smooth and curved through out, so the overall comfort was very good. The light ewight of the IEM helped with the comfort aspect further. The cable that came included was a generic braided cable that comes included with most of the Custom IEMs. It had the 2 pins connector on the IEM side, that goes into the regular sockets on the Aria. There are many memory wires out there that I hate but I had no issues with the one on the Aria. On the source side it was a regular right-angle 3.5mm stereo plug.
     
    SENSITIVITY, HISS & DRIVEABILITY:
     
    Aria is a very efficient IEM. At 15Ohm impedance and 110dB sensitivity, Aria was easily driven to loud levels even by an average smartphone. There was very faint hiss with my iPhone 6. It was so faint that I am not sure if many of you would even notice. On my Fiio X3ii in Low Gain, it was dead silent but on High Gain, I was able to hear a faint hiss similar to what I heard on the iPhone.
     
    IMG_0690.jpg

     
    SOUND:
     
    Before I received the Aria for review I wanted to understand its tuning. I felt the description of Aria’s signature on Vibro's website was a little loosely defined, so I approached the maker of Aria, Luke Pighetti himself and here is a snippet of our conversation:
     
    MY QUESTION:
    Quote:
     
    LUKE'S RESPONSE:
     
    SIGNATURE & TUNING:
    In short Aria has a smooth, dynamic sound without any harshness that is suitable for most music genres.
     
    The first thing that stood out was, the extensions on both ends. The bass was quick, controlled and had good texture. The sub-bass had good reverb and went deep. The speed and sub-bass reverb really helped with the bass texture and tonality. Because of the quick and controlled bass there was hardly any excessive warmth bleeding over to the mids. The bass did not have the slam and authority of a DD IEM, but had good punch and did not feel soft. I felt there was a slight dip in the upper bass/lower mids, that sometimes made male vocals sound as if lacking body or laid back. The middle and upper mids had good body enough to sound pleasing but not trending towards thinness or thickness. I'd say the right amount of body and thickness there.
     
    Female vocals and instruments sounded very good with good definition and dynamics. Tonality and transparency was very satisfying that I did not feel like the Aria needed the Mojo to please me. (Although I wish I did have the Mojo with me to see how well the Aria could scale up. Had to send the Mojo to the retailer for a replacement). I really loved the treble on the Aria. Plenty of air and sparkle but not even a slight bit of harshness. Like I mentioned earlier the treble extension was really good. It was not a bright IEM but has good resolution in the treble details and presents it in a smooth manner. The treble on the Aria was better than my 64Audio A10.
     
     
    TECHNICAL CAPABILITIES:
    Now in terms of technical capabilities, it was really up there. A few months, back I tried a $600 multi-BA IEM that really set the bars really high for technical capabilities. (And No, it’s not the Savant... Hint.. it was a 3-Driver, IEM from a French Manufacturer). Although Aria may not reach that level of technicality, I think it performs better or on par with other IEMs in same price range. The soundstage was pretty wide and deep to give the sense that the music was not inside your head. I really liked the presentation on this one. It was neither upfront nor laid-back and for the purpose of the review I’d like to call this positioning the Goldilock zone. The presentation and soundstage helped instruments to space out and not feel congested.
     
    The instruments were well separated and layered and the imaging if not very precise, was very convincing even through the Fiio X3ii. The timbre and transparency was really nice that made the vocals and instruments sounded very natural. (Once I again I wish I had the Mojo for this one as well). In terms of detail and resolution, it had plenty details to give you the Audiophile like resolution, but not enough for reference like sound or analytical listening. Aria is revealing enough to portray a true tonality, but draws the line there and stays on the side of being forgiving for the most part. In terms of speed, Aria is excellent in adapting to the music being played and is one of its strengths. It plays fast songs really well without lagging behind, while also capable of handling slow tempos with a humble composure. Overall, the note thickness was neither thick nor thin and the sound had good amount of body. IMO, all the above characteristics makes the Aria a versatile IEM and an excellent performer for its price range.
     

     
    COMAPRISONS:
    ARIA vs SENNHEISER IE80:
    The bass on the IE80 in comparison is soft and slow. But being a DD IEM, has better decay. The mids is not a strong pursuit of IE80 and so falls short there where Aria is better with its dynamic and detailed mids. Treble wise, Aria has better definition and sparkle but both have a very airy treble. IE80 has a slightly wider and deeper soundstage. IE80 also has a very airy presentation that gives it a laid back sound versus Aria’s Goldilock zone presentation. No ideal winner here, but would come down to one’s preference. In other technical abilities, Aria has an upper hand over the IE80. In terms of Dynamics and Transparency it is clearly better than the colored IE80.
     
    ARIA vs 64 AUDIO A10:
    My A10 arrived after a refit just a few hours before I was about to ship the Aria so the comparison was very brief. Aria has better bass depth and punch. While A10’s bass has better texture and sounds like a bass coming from a speaker, versus Aria’s bass sounds like listening on a headphone. A10 has better mids than the Aria in terms of definition and note thickness. Treble is one of the 3 areas where Aria is better than the A10. The second aspect being the speed. A10 couldn’t keep up with the speed of Aria on fast paced songs. And the 3rd being the extensions. A10’s lows and highs do not extend as good as Aria.
    In terms of technical capabilities A10 had an upper hand. This is where A10’s hefty price tag sets it apart. On certain aspects like transparency, timbre, imaging, instrument separation, layering and soundstage the difference is clear. In terms of resolution, detail retrieval the difference is only marginal. A10, just like the IE80 has a slightly laidback presentation. And based on the type of music/track, my preference shuttled between A10’s laidback presentation and Aria’s Goldilock presentation. It is an unfair comparison given that A10 retails for x3 times the price of Aria. And when it comes to price/performance ratio, Aria is a clear winner.
     
    IMG_0689.jpg
     

     
    CONCLUSION:
    Unlike many manufacturers who offer an array of IEMs, Vibro offers just one model. It must have been a challenge for Luke to make this IEM into something that would click for a wide audience and I’d have to say that his efforts have paid off. Not only is Aria a versatile IEM, I found it handled many genres I threw at it with aplomb. The top and low end extensions, speed, dynamics and versatility make this an easy recommendation, if you are in the market for a $600 IEM to enjoy your music. And the comfort goes a long way as an extra cherry on top. Except for the slight dip in the lower mids, I honestly couldn't find any fault with it's sound. And if you are a fan of wooden faceplates, be sure to check Aria out.
     
    And one thing that needs a definite mention is that, Aria is every bit what Luke and his website describes it to be. I have had some recent experience of trying few IEMs that were different from the manufacturer's description. But that was not the case with the Aria. It lives up to their words and satisfies the listener. What else could we ask for?
     
    I would like to thank Luke for giving me this great opportunity to review his creation.
     
    IMG_5486.jpg
    1. View previous replies...
    2. EagleWings
      @linux4ever , Thank you :) Good to know that you are enjoying your new IEM. Too bad I couldn't try it with the Mojo. I am sure it brings the best out of the Aria..
      EagleWings, Aug 22, 2016
    3. linux4ever
      This pairs very well with AK Jr. The neutral to warmish sound signature of AK Jr pairs well with the neutral to brightish sound signature of Aria. I'm liking it a lot. Aria is one excellent IEM in terms of sound quality as well as looks and finish. The wood plate is really awesome. Is Tsx-500 & Ts-500 models of comply tips that go with this IEM? What other ear tips besides comply are suited for this?
      linux4ever, Sep 10, 2016
    4. Luke Pighetti
      @linux4ever the Aria uses the Comply 600 core size. If you email me I can send you out some updated tips. (Please do it through my site, much easier on my end!) I have also heard that CP100 Spin Fits also work, but I haven't tried them myself. 
      Luke Pighetti, Sep 14, 2016
  6. jjacq
    Vibro Labs Aria: A Great Work in Progress.
    Written by jjacq
    Published Aug 22, 2016
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Generous in accessories, beautifully designed, good for bass-centric genres.
    Cons - A bit too expensive for what you get, could use a bit more refining in locking into a particular sound signature.
    I have received the ARIA as a part of the Vibro Labs ARIA Universal tour on Head-Fi that took part on August 2016. I have spent a week with the IEMs while maintaining ownership with the Shure SE846 and the Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors(UERM), using my own sources as reference.

    Testing chain: PC/RWAK240(optical out/line out) > RSA Intruder/Mojo > IEMs. The music used are from various genres on Foobar2000 and streaming from Spotify Premium.

    _DSC45022Custom.jpg _DSC4529Custom.jpg _DSC4532Custom.jpg

    The Aria is Vibro Labs' premier IEM and flagship. Buyers can choose between various wood grains and can be had in universal or custom version with 3D printed shells. It is a quad armature design with an impedance of 15 ohms at 110db spl/mW and all handmade in Maine, USA.

    Build and Accessories
     
    ARIA
    This loaner consisted of a very good Pelican 1010 case with a cleaning tool and a ton of comply IEM tips. Unfortunately, the stem of the Aria is a bit too big for me so putting it in with the smallest comply was a bit uncomfortable but I am able to get a good seal to go on with the review. As for design, the wooden faceplates look excellent in person and definitely one of the most unique styles in IEMs I’ve seen so far. The finish is very clean and smooth as well. On the other side with the vibro logo, there are some rough edges that you can see reflected on the inside but this may be because of the 3D printing that was done with it. Overall, I think accessories-wise, they are pretty generous.
     
    SE846
    The SE846 has an excellent build except for the stock cable going to crap after several months of use. The connectors are not exactly the best though some may prefer this over the typical 2-pin that the two IEMs have. It has a vast array of accessories like tips and filters, while supplying a cleaning cloth and pelican-style hardcase. Different countries may have packaging though, but most of the time I find that my accessories not really being used much. In terms of design, the drivers are neatly packaged through the see-through shell but there are known complaints about the drivers rusting or the plastic being foggy on the stem of the IEM. I’ve owned my 846s for almost 10 months now and I’ve been happy with them though I’ve never really compared the sound to other earphones.
     
    UERM
    I will skip the build entirely because it has been reshelled by InEarz before I received it. Source-wise I didn’t hear any hissing with the RSA Intruder or Mojo.

    _DSC4603Custom.jpg

    Sound Quality

    ARIA
    Source wise, I didn’t find any issues with matching and no hiss from any of my sources either. Bass on the Aria is a bit veiled, but no midrange bleed which is always a good thing. Bass extension is very clean while having adequate detail, balance on bass side is very good, I prefer this over the 846. In terms of midrange, there is a downward slope which can make a lot of instruments sound a little bit pushed back. EQ would perhaps fix this but as of using stock, it’s not good for midrange-centric genres. The treble has a slight hotness associated with it that’s almost sibilant but this can probably be associated with the midrange issue. Turning it down to actual listening volumes, treble is conclusively warm with sibilance. Using the Mojo, the issue is alleviated a slight bit but the issue can still be heard if you try to notice it. The only issue would I would find is that the slight sibilance is also amplified with this combo though not at unlistenable levels.
     
    Recommended genres: Bass-centric genres, Hip Hop.

    SE846
    The 846 is extremely sensitive and it can hiss with a lot of different sources. Also, impedance matching is important because most sources affect how it sounds. Bass is well textured in which it has layers and detail with clean extension all throughout. There is no muddiness with it and soundstage is at a decent width. There is a slight discontinuity with the transition of the midrange and treble region which can make it a bit all over the place. The treble also has a slight peak which reminds me of the SE215’s in a less severe way but it can be something that can be overlooked. I say this in which it’s easy to blame the recording rather than it being an SE846 problem but switching songs, I can definitely hear the 846 doing this. I would also say that the 846 is similar to the LCD-X sound signature but both having different textures in bass. Treble and midrange are nothing to write home about but the IEM can be very forgiving. It’s an IEM you would use as a musical pair, doing well with v-shaped oriented genres without being extremely v-shaped. Overall, I think it is picky with sources but it is very fun and engaging.

    Recommended genres: Top 40, Pop, EDM, Hip Hop.

    UERM
    The UERM has bass that’s reminiscent of the HD800 stock. It’s not overpowering yet there is enough of it to accommodate a believable performance in an acoustic setting. As for genres such as EDM, it’s a bit too bass-light. To visualize this, think of listening to EDM for an audience of 1. In terms of midrange and imaging, this is where the UERM truly shines. The UERM has enough air as an IEM and it is detail-oriented in which it’s like the HD800 in IEM form, without the extremely harsh treble issues with stock. I think the UERM can be a bit treble forward though I wouldn’t say that it’s as bright as an HD800 stock with let’s say, a schiit amplifier. My biggest criticism of the UERM is that it can sound thin at times (due to the forward treble), which leads it to be lacking in body that the 846 can give. To add to that, it can be revealing with bad recordings. One can also say it can be shouty at times which is one of my big criticisms for it. Going with this IEM though, you get very good detail retrieval that is ideal for midrange-centric genres.

    Recommended genres: Acoustic, Classical, Jazz, Vocal-oriented genres.

    Closing thoughts & addendum:

    Personal preferences vary from person to person along with the genres that they listen to, so reviewers must try to be objective and detach themselves from these biases to give an unprejudiced review. This can be compensated by assessing a piece of gear with its characteristics while reproducing the same testing procedures for each sample. Some will prefer the ARIA, the SE846, or the UERM with fairly sound reasons. As the ARIA is the subject of this review, I think there is much potential to be had if the midrange was tuned more correctly as it was advertised when it was announced. I would say the Aria is ambitious, as it claims to be an all-around contender at a bargain price (“ARIA is a true flagship at entry level prices.”; verbatim from the website). While there is really no IEM that can do it all, I would disagree on the Aria being the heir to that be-all-end-all throne for now. At its price point, I feel like the asking price is a bit too high with other available options in the market like the ones from Noble, ’64 Audio, or even the Chinese IEM counterparts that are very hard to beat for the money. Nonetheless, I think the Aria has potential to be improved as giving proper tonality and sound signature balance would allow it to be more compatible with other genres to be rightfully lauded as a be-all-end-all IEM.
    1. DoctorZoidberg
      Good review. I heard the universal at AXPONA and pretty much agree 100%
      DoctorZoidberg, Aug 22, 2016
    2. onyxwulf
      Nice review.
      onyxwulf, Aug 22, 2016
    3. Luke Pighetti
      Hey @jjacq, thanks for taking the time to post your honest review. Keep an eye out for an announcement later this week. Cheers.
      Luke Pighetti, Aug 23, 2016
  7. Army-Firedawg
    One of the smoothest and non fatiguing iems I've ever listened to
    Written by Army-Firedawg
    Published Sep 1, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Smoother than the softest of silk, incredibly tight and controlled.
    Cons - Sound is definitely not for everyone, frame and horn are larger than I feel necessary, causing some people to be unable to even listen to them.
                                                                       20160901_234152.jpg
     
     
        I must first and foremost give a large and heartfelt thank you to Vibro Labs for including me in their tour. I’ve heard a great deal of good things about this iem and was even recommended it by a subscriber of mine, so when I seen an opportunity to listen to one myself I just couldn’t pass it up. So again I give thanks for without this tour, who knows if I would’ve ever been able to listen to such a smooth iem.
        Alright, so pleasantries aside how about we delve into what experience I got out of the Virbo Labs Aria shall we?
     
     I'm a 25 year old firefighter currently for the U.S. Army North Carolina National Guard. I was formerly a civilian firefighter in Kentucky with the Millard Fire Department before I enlisted and moved to my current location in Charlotte, North Carolina. My current goal is to begin my career again in the civilian fire service, and yes, I am the cliché of wanting to do that since as far as I can remember.
        My interests/hobbies are power lifting, fishing and relaxing to audio products and reviewing them to help other decide on what products would work for them. On that note over the years I've really came to an understanding of what it is I like and look for in audio products.
        What I look for is a relaxing, warm and sensual sound that just drifts me away in the emotional experience of the music being performed. Yes, accuracy is still important but I will happily sacrifice that if I'm presented with a clean, warm sound that can wisp me away into an experience that makes me yearn for more.
        My ideal signature are that of respectably forward mids and upper bass range with the bass being controlled but with some slight decay. I like my treble to have great extension and detail reveal but I don't like artificial treble in order to achieve that. Examples of products that have given me chills and keep giving me the yearning for more feels are the Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-1/2, Empire Ears Hermes VI, Audeze LCD-XC, Meze Headphones 99 Classics & Stax SR009.
     
      
     I am by no means sponsored by this company or any of its affiliates. They were kind enough to send me a product for an arranged amount of time in exchange for my honest opinion. I am making no monetary compensation for this review.

     
    The Opening Experience
     
     
    20160901_234656.jpg     20160901_234639.jpg     20160901_233719.jpg
       
        The initial handshake of a company. More often than not a product sent in tours are arranged and presented as if they just got it themselves. Mine was delivered in a gaggled up wad of tangle inside its really sturdy case, a plethora of accessory tips to be used for the duration of the tour and also a bulk size of alcohol wipes. Now, I know full well that the iems wouldn’t be presented this way as it was sent out so placing the Aria’s in their cut out foam slots and then folding the cable and inserting it into theirs, I was then presented with a very high class and clean presentation. Then on another note, I’ve been a part of a decent amount of tours now and this is one of only two companies I can think of that provided an ample amount of tips for those with different size ears AND if someone else would want to listen to them as well and then cleaning supplies to boot as to keep everything sanitary. The only other company to do this, was Empire Ears when they allowed me their entire product line to take to Carolina CanFest 5.
        So using my head and putting things back where they were supposed to be, Vibro Labs didn’t just give a firm handshake, they gave a caring and considerate one as well.

     
    Construction

        20160901_233623.jpg 20160901_234218.jpg
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
        The build quality of the Aria’s are that of pretty much every iem. And I’m not sure of the exact material in the mixture but it feels like a mixture of plastic and silicone, which you can’t really use much else or else the iem becomes uncomfortably heavy inside the ear. Now beyond the frame material Vibro Labs uses a removable cable design which, at least for me personally, is a necessity. I’ve seen a many of people go livid because they lost their $500+ headphones, iems, etc… be rendered completely useless because of a short or break in the cable, and with the product of this price tag there’s no excuse to not have them; also allows for individuals to purchase aftermarket cables if they were to so choose.
        The faceplate of the Aria’s is stunning, regardless of which of the 3 (if I remember correctly) options you decide to go with. The frame itself I find to be unnecessarily large with respect to the driver count and placement. When looking at the translucent color you can see the 4 drivers are close to the horn with quite a bit of free space left. I believe size could’ve been reduced because even in my ears (as the picture shows) they stick out a good bit. In addition, the horn is rather large. This is very unfortunate because even with the smallest provided size tip Christina (who has a rather small ear) was unable to get the Aria’s in her ear in which case completely removed her from the potential customer aspect. Yes, Vibro Labs offers custom fit options and that is a very viable route to go, but not everyone wants to go that route, nor should they be forced to just to get the sound they want.
     
    Comfort
     
                                                                                      20160901_224221.jpg
     
        I more or less discussed the comfort in the previous section but other than the size of the iems being on the larger side, they’re honestly pretty comfortable and easy to wear. In fact I was listening to these while both writing this review and finishing up the final touches on another products review as well as used them during my video edits. I’ve easily gone 4+ hours at a time with the Aria’s in with absolutely no discomfort. The isolation ability, at least when paired with Comply memory foam tips, is top notch. There was a good few times my name was called and I only found this out by a very angry fiancee barging in my office yelling what she was trying to ask me.
        Then to just reiterate what was discussed in the construction section, the horn is rather large. This caused them to push a fair ways out of my ear (which didn’t affect the comfort) but made them unwearable to Christina who has smaller ears.

     
    Sound
     
                                                                                       download.jpg
     
        Ah and here we are, the true reason people are likely reading this review. And rightfully so, an auditory pieces main responsibility is to produce sound and to what degree does it produce it to the listener. Now, regarding the Vibro Labs Aria the quick synopsis to the rest of the review is smoooooottttthhhhhhh.
        The Vibro Labs Aria presents a beautifully smooth and non fatiguing sound that admittedly does take a bit to get used to. I say this because the sound signature at first start is a bit weak, as in almost everything sounds slightly recessed so an increase in volume is recommended. The tour forum kept mentioning about issues in the lower mid range and how they didn’t sound right but when reading the product description from the website
     
    “ARIA's dynamic and engaging sound signature provides deep bass extension while maintaining clear, detailed and extended highs. It is warm but with sub-bass that is rarely achieved with pure balanced armature designs. We take tuning very seriously. ARIA was designed to not only sound good, but to create an emotional experience.
    ARIA presents its performance with a smooth bass region and sloping mid-range, extending far into the highs without harshness or sibilance. Low harmonic distortion presents clarity throughout the entire range.”
     
    And then @Luke Pighetti response to what he was aiming for when asked by @EagleWings (and this is DIRECTLY COPIED FROM HIS REVIEW)
     
    If I were going to pidgeon-hole it, I would say somewhere between balanced and U-shaped. To delve in deeper, the goal of Aria is to present top extension with controlled and smooth subbass, preserving microdetails and allowing articulate subbass landscapes to form. This type of tune is certainly versatile, but I think it does best with electronic music which has a very complex bassline that is usually lost in the fray of inarticulate low end that you see in a lot of hybrids and Knowles CI based earphones. I find that Aria opens up a whole new world of appreciation for complex subbass while still retaining complex microdetails.
     
    And I know that makes it sound like some crazy vee-shaped signature, but the really crazy thing about Aria is that it is relaxing, non-fatiguing, and it's still very versatile. Hard to explain, really. I think you'll enjoy it. It's a unique signature.”
     
    I found the Aria’s to correspond exactly with what was explained up front. And no, the sound I will say is definitely not going to be for everyone. It’s certainly unique but a wonderfully unique sound it is.
        The soundstage is very clean and impressive with great detail retrieval and instrument seperation. I know of many a headphones in this price point that doesn’t have as good separation and imaging as the Aria’s do and that’s saying a good bit. But let me describe the individual aspects of the Aria a little bit to hopefully better explain the sound signature.
     
    Treble
     
        The highs on the Aria have wonderful extension and smoothly roll off JUST before it becomes piercing. They also recreate a great amount of detail especially if the instrument in already in the treble range (like when a drumstick brushes the symbols, you can hear the grittiness of that through these).
        And oh my good gosh the energy transfer. I use the performer Lindsey Stirling in my reviews quite often because I truly love her music. Just about every single piece is full of life, energy, is upbeat, happy and full of emotion. And when a in ear monitor can convey that back to my being I have found a truly well tuned creation. Another great example of treble extension is the wonderful pianist Maxence Cyrin and my favorite of hers “Where’s My Mind”.
     
    Mids
     
        The soul of the audio piece. Anyone who ever reads any of my reviews or talks to me knows how I love a warm mid forward sound. Why? Because that’s where the artist's emotion lies. It’s their literal voice pleading with me the listener to feel their emotions.
        With the Aria’s I must say that the mids didn’t give me that warm feeling of connecting with the musician that I strive for. Luke wasn’t kidding when he said the mids are scooped out for their certainly quite recessed but NOWHERE to the degree of a v shape sound curve. The slope is very slow and smooth in transition. This, at least to me, reduces the annoying fatigue I get with “V” shape headphones, iems, etc… the shape valley just tires me out.
        A note that really off put me that he said is that they still possess an overall balanced sound. My thought is how in the world can they be balanced with the described type of sound? Well, I still don’t know but he was telling the truth. Once you’re in the valley of the mids, they sound wonderful and even. A song that really shows what I’m talking about is “Hurt” by Johnny Cash. You can clearly make out the rasp in his breath, the reverb of the guitar and so on.
     
    Bass
     
        If treble is the eyes (didn’t mention that in this review), mids are the mouth and soul, then the bass is most certainly the heartbeat. The bass keeps the rhythm of the music and puts a whole bodied sound into it as well, so long as the bass isn’t overpowering. So how about the Aria? How does the bass hit on these? Hmmm, I’m trying to think of a good analogy of them but it’s neglecting me but the bass, though doesn’t hit hard, hits super fast and has minimal decay and bleed. Super bassy music isn’t too enjoyable with these but my goodness does EDM and techno music sound awesome. My favorite example, and admittedly I rarely listen to this genre of music unless I’m doing cardio, is “Sandstorm” by Darude. This song usually has a nice bass hit in terms of thump but most headphones will bleed some with the constant barrage of bass hits of varying frequencies and amplitude. However, Vibro Labs excellently controlled Aria’s have no problems whatsoever.
     
    Conclusion
     
        At first glance I didn’t think I would like the Aria’s as much as I did. Though their signature isn’t one I personally go for, they’re an off puttingly amazingly (I think I can use those words together?) smooth iem that I’ve enjoyed for hours on end. But if you’re wanting a very tight, balanced and again I stress smooth in ear monitor with great isolation then you’ll find comfortable solace within the Aria’s embrace. However, if you’re someone like myself you enjoys a warm mid forward presentation that’s full of emotion and life then these likely are the one’s you’ll fall for.

     
    Also, make sure to check out my unboxing and review videos. They’re pretty awesome AND you getta put a face to the Army-Firedawg name. If this review helped you out at all please hit that thumbs up button for it really helps me out a lot. Till next time my friends, stay safe.
     

     

     
      flinkenick and EagleWings like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Army-Firedawg
      Thank you very much, I appreciate that my friend.
      Army-Firedawg, Sep 2, 2016
    3. Luke Pighetti
      Thanks for the review, @Army-Firedawg! :)
       
      Only comment is a bit nit-picky: Some have said the mids are 'scooped out' and I don't agree. They are relaxed, and as you said, very detailed! It is a unique sound signature, one I love to listen to at the end of a long day.
      Luke Pighetti, Sep 6, 2016
    4. Army-Firedawg
      @Luke Pighetti I couldn't agree with you more. Actually your comment of listening to them at the end of a long day is SPOT ON what these excel at. Not once have, nor dare I say will, give a harsh tone. I will say the mids are pulled back some but soooo darned smooth. My friend I really hope to hear your new Maya, for I can only imagine how these beauties will sound. 
      Army-Firedawg, Sep 19, 2016
  8. Jackpot77
    Vibro Labs debut effort is a great looking, laid back IEM with an unusual but addivtive tuning and top notch detail - it truly does sing!
    Written by Jackpot77
    Published Sep 30, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Excellent sub-bass detail, no mid-bass hump, smooth non fatiguing signature, great treble extension, engaging midrange, unusual tuning
    Cons - Midrange could sound a little recessed for some, tuning won't be for everyone
    20160930_234026.jpg
     
    Vibro Labs Aria (universal) – initial impressions
     
    In my travels on Head-Fi over the last year or so, Vibro Labs is a name I had heard bandied around in various forums, mainly as makers of the Vibro Veritas IEM measuring system, or due to their work with Zach Meyerbach and his ZMF brand on the highly rated ZMF x Vibro line of modded Fostex planar headphones. On looking a little deeper, it turns out that Vibro Labs is actually the brainchild of Luke Pighetti, who to all intents IS Vibro. Reading more about the firm on their excellent website led me to a few threads and reviews regarding their first ever IEM (the Aria), with people praising the unusual tuning and CIEM-style build, among other things. About the same time I started hearing about the first model, an opportunity came up to participate in a European tour of Vibro’s sophomore offering, the Maya. Wanting to hear the two IEMs side by side, I was lucky to find an Aria on the FS boards going for a very reasonable price, so picked them up to compare side by side with the new offering. This review is unrelated to the tour of the Maya model, and is not linked to Vibro Labs in any way as the gear was purchased by me.
     
    About me: newly minted audiophile, late 30s, long time music fan and aspiring to be a reasonably inept drummer. Listen to at least 2 hours of music a day on my commute to work – prefer IEMs for out and about, and a large pair of headphones when I have the house to myself and a glass in my hand. Recently started converting my library to FLAC and 320kbps MP3, and do most of my other listening through Spotify or Tidal HiFi. I am a fan of rock, acoustic (apart from folk) and sarcasm. Oh yeah, and a small amount of electronica. Not a basshead, but I do love a sound with some body to it. Please take all views expressed below with a pinch of salt – all my reviews are a work in progress based on my own perceptions and personal preferences, and your own ears may tell you a different story.
     
    Tech specs (from the Vibro website)
     
    Faceplate – Amboyna Wood (now replaced by Circassian Walnut on new models)
    Smoked CLA shells (3D printed)
    Frequency response – 20Hz to 20kHz
    Impedance – 15 Ohms
    Sensitivity – 110 dB/me
     
    VibroAriaFreqgraph.jpg
     
    Unboxing
     
    The unboxing for the Vibro is quite a lean affair – in line with some of the more “boutique” custom IEM manufacturers, the Vibro ships in a branded Peli case, without any fancy external packaging. The Peli case is one of the clear case variants in a standard size, with a nice black Vibro labs sticker on the lid to denote what is inside. The innards are sat in some hard foam padding (standard Peli case fare), and the IEMs, cable and cleaning tool are all held firmly in place in a laser-cut velour insert which fills up the available space in the case. The insert is nicely finished, and allows for the IEMs to be inserted snugly for transport. On the down side, the insert takes up pretty much all the available room inside the case, so you won’t be able to transport reams of accessories along with the Aria unless you take it out, but as a secure and good looking transit solution for the essentials (IEM, cable and de-gunking tool), then this is fine. The case itself is in standard Peli 1010 size (as used by various other major CIEM manufacturers) – it is not exactly pocket-friendly, but does provide a practically bomb-proof shelter for transporting your IEMs in safety. One nice touch is the addition of the warranty card on the inside of the case itself (facing out of the bottom panel) – this lists the model name, serial number and who it was made for, and allows you to keep the important warranty detail handy without having to keep track of a small slip of paper. In terms of accessories, the Aria comes with some Comply foam tips (T-600 size in my case), a standard cleaning tool and a run of the mill CIEM style 2 pin braided cable. There aren’t masses of tips or additional goodies to savour, but I personally like this stripped down approach sometimes, as it implies that the majority of the pricetag has been put into the earphones, rather than the niceties that surround them.
     
    20160930_234005.jpg
     
    Build quality and ergonomics
    There is plenty of information on the Vibro Labs website (www.vibrolabs.com) on the manufacturing process and materials used in these IEMs, so I won’t go into massive detail here – the body of the IEM is made out of a smoky translucent acrylic, with a real hardwood faceplate on the outer face. The faceplate is devoid of any branding, and currently comes in three different varieties of hardwood. The main body of the IEM is 3D printed, and holds a similar ergonomic shape to many high-driver count universal IEMs like the current Noble series. As the shells are see-through, the internal wiring and driver mechanism can be seen clearly – there is plenty of space left in the bottom half of the shell, so I suspect that Vibro could release a higher driver count IEM at some stage without too much major rework on the housing (if they were so inclined).
     
    The quality of the build is excellent, with the 3D printed shells feeling smooth and blemish free, with a slightly mottled look when held directly to the light due to the peculiarities of the manufacturing process. They are very smooth and well finished, with the inner face containing the only conspicuous attempt at branding, with an engraved “Vibro” logo in white across the top part of the shell. The wooden faceplate also deserves special mention, blending seamlessly into the main body of the IEM and providing a fantastic and unusual look when worn. The wood itself is beautifully worked and polished to a high shine.
     
    In terms of fit and ergonomics, the Aria fit very well in my larger-than-average ear canals – this is quite fortunate, as the sound bore of the IEM is one of the wider I have used, taking a set of Comply T-600s quite easily. That being said, I was easily able to get a very good seal with both ears, and once in, the shape of the shells kept the outer of the IEM around level with the outer part of my ear, so still felt pretty comfortable to wear for extended periods. For those with smaller ears, it may be more of a challenge to get a perfect fit, but Comply tips should help all but the most unspacious of eardrums get a good seal. I would venture a guess that these won’t be the best IEMs to try sleeping in, but at the pricetag involved, I wouldn’t imagine most people would risk wearing them to bed anyway. It is worth noting that my girlfriend has exceptionally small and shallow ear canals, and she wasn’t able to achieve a comfortable fit, but she also struggles with a few of my other IEMs, so not a major concern,
     
    20160930_233858.jpg
     
    Sound quality
     
    Test gear:
    LG G5 (with HiFi Plus 32-bit Sabre DAC add-on)
    Shanling M5 DAP
    Soundaware M1 Pro DAP (on loan)
    Hifiman Supermini
    Cowon Plenue D
    Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (straight from the output jack)
    Cayin C5 (amp only)
     
    Test tracks (mainly 320kbps MP3 or FLAC/Tidal HiFi):
    Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – S.O.B. / Wasting Time
    Blackberry Smoke – The Whipporwill (album)
    Slash – Shadow Life / Bad Rain (my reference tracks for bass impact and attack, guitar “crunch”)
    Slash & Beth Hart – Mother Maria (vocal tone)
    Sister Hazel – Hello, It’s Me (bass tone)
    Chris Stapleton – Whiskey And You
    Elvis – various
    Leon Bridges – Coming Home (album)
    Foy Vance – The Wild Swan
    Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (album)
    The Chemical Brothers - Go
    Rodrigo y Gabriela – various
    Mavis Staples – Livin’ On A High Note
    Twin Atlantic – The Great Divide
    The Darkness – Permission To Land
     
    20160920_122024_HDR.jpg
     
    General impressions on the sound signature
     
    On first listen, the Aria had a sound signature that I very much struggled to process, with my brain trying to identify some common reference points in other IEMs I had heard. The Aria has excellent extension on both ends of the frequency spectrum, with a great depth of bass and sub-bass and clear and sparkling high frequencies. The midrange is textured with a slight dash of warmth and great detail, but sits a little further back in emphasis than the bass or treble. The official description from Vibro is a relaxed “V” shape sound, but to my ears this feels more like a “U” shaped IEM. That being said, to label the tuning as a simple bass and treble boost would be doing it a great disservice. The mids are actually very nicely rendered and don’t feel recessed or lacking if you concentrate on them in isolation. It is almost as if you are dropping down into a canyon with vertical walls, with Bass territory on one side, Trebleville on the other and the river Mid flowing down the canyon riverbed with speed and sparkle. I think the emphasis on both sub-bass and high treble rather than midbass or lower treble helps the tuning in this regard. Once you get accustomed to the signature, the sound is very easy to listen to for prolonged periods, with a sharply defined and textured presentation that still manages to remain non-fatiguing. The detail in the sub-bass specifically merits a mention, with the Aria managing to dig out some new sounds in test tracks I know well that some of my more bassy Aurisonics gear (my previous “gold standard” for bass) has missed in the past. This is an engaging tuning, providing plenty of detail at both ends of the spectrum to catch the ear, and a “just warm enough” tonality to keep the sound from totally drying out as a result.
     
    20160919_215132_HDR.jpg
     
    Highs
     
    The high range of the Aria is extended and detailed, but never feels too sharp. It packs a lot of micro-detail (in common with the rest of the frequency range), with the dual tweeter array being used giving a nice but not excessive sense of air. Despite the extension that is evident, there is a definite smoothing of any particularly rough edges in the spectrum, which contributes to a clear and sharp sound that doesn’t lead to fatigue – a very good blend. Feeding some Slash and Myles Kennedy into the mix, “Starlight” soars in all the right places, with a smoothness and weight to Kennedy’s falsetto which really brings a layer of sweetness to the sound that complements the chugging guitar and pumping basslines very well. Some of the guitar work on this track is quite dissonant, and can be borderline unpleasant on more “etched”, IEMs, but like the vocals, the Aria smooths just enough of the rawness off the jagged edges while retaining the detail. In terms of airiness, the Aria has a great sense of extension and space, without feeling “limitless” – think more mid-sized gig venue than an 80,000 seater stadium. The slightly closed off “roof” to the sound does have the added benefit of emphasising locational cues and “room sounds” quite well (a trait that is taken even further by the next model up in the series, the Maya, but that’s another review!).
     
    Cymbals and percussion splash nicely, but don’t sound overemphasised or tizzy, and follow the more laid back and clear tone of the rest of the treble, sitting just above the main sound and providing accents rather than fizzing walls of percussive noise. In terms of sibilance, I have jammed my screechiest tracks through a multitude of DAPs, but I haven’t been able to find anything that has overstepped my personal tolerance limits yet, with the Aria handling the lower level grating on “Whiskey And You” by Chris Stapleton with the same sense of refinement it gives to the Slash track above, smoothing things off just enough to make them listenable without fogging over any fine detail in the process. Like the bass, the smooth but extended tuning is different to a lot of the treble “offerings” out there, but once you have adjusted to it, it just makes sense for this particular IEM, and is very well executed.
     
    20160920_121951_HDR.jpg
     
    Mids
     
    I think the midrange will be the most contentious area of the sound for the average listener (if there is such a thing on HeadFi), with a laid back and almost recessed presentation compared to the bass and treble. I say almost, as once you adjust (“brain burn in”) to the sound, the midrange is slightly warm, detailed and musical, with a lovely smokiness to male vocals and texture borne out of the detail the crossed-over drivers are capable of producing that makes the music feel very welcoming. The driver set up used to achieve this is quite unusual for a 4 BA configuration, with two drivers being allocated to bass and two to treble, with the midrange being derived from the “outer ranges” of both, without its own dedicated driver. I think this actually works very well, with a laid back but detailed vibe and detail enough to keep all but the most analytical listeners satisfied. In reality, I think the mids are reasonably neutral in positioning, with the far edges of both the bass and the treble pushing further forward in the soundscape to give the impression of a pushed back midrange, without the actual volume levels to back that up. Like the treble, there is plenty of detail present when called for, with finger movements on guitar strings (“Coco” by Foy Vance) and other such studio artefacts floating around underneath the sound. The detail and clarity makes guitars sound very good with this tuning, with both the acoustic and electric variants coming to life nicely. Despite the laid back nature of the sound, heavier guitar riffs can still chug nicely thanks to the detail and speed of the drivers, with “One by One” by the Foo Fighters smashing through the musical foreground with its customary energy and crunching through the chorus with ease.
     
    Male vocals sound a little thinner than female vocals to me, but not in any particularly bad way. Both male and female vocals are able to impart a good sense of emotion due to the detail and timbre of the sound produced, with Chris Stapleton making the hairs on the back of my arms stand up with “Whiskey and You”, the raw emotion in the singer’s voice translating nicely through the Aria into something truly absorbing. I have read other people on HeadFi mentioning “scooped-out” mids, but while I will be the first to admit my ears are far from “Golden” (I’d guess at copper at absolute best), I just don’t hear the hole some people have mentioned. As always, sound is 100% subjective, but for me, the mid range tuning is the right side of warm, bringing plenty of detail and emotion with it while still retaining the smoothness and non-fatiguing nature of the rest of the frequency ranges.
     
    20160920_121928_HDR.jpg
     
    Bass
     
    Bass on the Aria is a more unusual tuning than most, with an equal emphasis on sub-bass and without the classic mid-bass “thumb” that usually accompanies a more commercial V shaped tuning. That isn’t to say that the mid-bass is lacking on these, in fact far from it, but the balance and additional presence of the sub-bass frequencies adds a good sense of rumble and extension down low that works brilliantly with most electronic music and particularly bassy rock music, allowing the detail and texture of the bass to permeate the song without smearing or drowning out the mid-range.
    Switching through my usual test tracks, “Hello, It’s Me” by Sister Hazel kicks off with the rolling chocolate of the bass line filling the track out nicely, with a slightly more balanced feel than on some IEMs due to the balance of the bass frequencies. The impact of the kick drums drives a decent impact into your eardrums for an IEM without any dynamic drivers, feeling punchy and substantial, as well as nicely textured. My other “go-to” for bass is another Slash track (“Bad Rain”) – this doesn’t disappoint, with the rasping texture of the bassline feeling so raw and sandpapered it wouldn’t look out of place on Clint Eastwood’s chin. The pace of the armatures providing the bass (a ported double woofer unit from Knowles, I believe) is evident here, with the riff stopping and starting on a sixpence as the staccato rhythm of the song builds, never sounding sloppy or loose.
     
    Moving into more electronic territory, “Nobody To Love” by Sigma pulse nicely, the sub-bass kicking in with a nice sense of fullness and detail as the track gets going, the drums thumping along on top of it and propelling the song forwards. Overall, the bass is full, with a substantial foundation due to the excellent sub-frequency emphasis, managing to sound full and slightly warm without flooding tracks with excessive mid-bass, and generating more impact than you would expect from an all-BA setup. The bass here is an unusual but very appealing tuning, and has altered my perceptions slightly on what I consider truly “great” bass in an IEM – while this doesn’t tick every box I thought I was after in an ideal endgame product wishlist, the masterful tuning and slight tilt down into the mids make for a compelling sound, with bags of detail and a surprising punch to go along with the smoothness.
     
    20160930_233921.jpg
     
    Soundstage/separation
     
    The soundstage on the Aria is good but not phenomenally wide, stopping just outside the confines of your own head and taking the occasional walk a little further afield just to see what’s going on from time to time. The decent sense of airiness and location cues gives a good sense of depth and separation, with the drivers handling fast and complex passages of music like the duelling Spanish guitars of Rodrigo and Gabriela on their C.U.B.A. collaboration without ever feeling too taxed. The excellent detailing of the sound comes into play here – with the Soundaware M1 Pro DAP, I could hear myself picking out the two different guitars playing the same riff on “Growing On You” by The Darkness, which I haven’t managed to notice on any of my other gear to date. This may be due to the higher impedance output of the M1Pro making the sound a little bit leaner, but after a quick message exchange with Luke @ Vibro, he confirmed that he can’t measure any difference in sound on the Aria with different impedance output (although Sonion do mention it is possible in their technical literature, apparently), so I am happy to chalk that one up as a combination of DAP synergy and good old fashioned user bias/poor volume matching on my part. Overall, the stage sounds and feels quite lifelike, with good micro-detail and a decent spread of instruments, allowing the crisply defined notes to keep everything clearly defined and layered.
     
    20160920_121938_HDR.jpg
     
    Power requirements
     
    The Aria are a low-impedance IEM, and are certainly capable of being fed by things like mobile phones without too much grief. I have been lucky enough to work my way through a few DAPs while I have been listening to these, and for my own preferences, I find that putting a bit of extra gas in the tank on high gain modes with DAPs like the Shanling M5, or playing through the new Hifiman Supermini with its outrageous driving power for something smaller than a dead person’s to-do list does give the Aria an extra bump in the terms of dynamics. Again, this could be down to the phenomenon of volume bias (where people perceive louder sounds as “better”) through poor volume matching on my part, but for me, these IEMs sing when given a little more power to do so.
     
    20160920_121845_HDR.jpg
     
     
    Comparisons
     
    Aurisonics Harmony – this was a two week loaner from a fellow Head-Fi’er, and my “loan” period overlapped nicely with the arrival of the Aria. Compared to the Aria, the Harmony is a triple hybrid setup, with one ported 9.25mm dynamic driver handling the bass and midrange and a patented dual-tweeter array that Aurisonics call HDBA handling the high frequencies. This model has now been discontinued after the Aurisonics buyout by Fender, and has been replaced with a similar triple hybrid called the FXA7 – both models retail at an RRP of $499, which puts it squarely in the same price bracket as the Aria. In term of bass, despite the excellent extension and sub-bass, the all-BA Aria loses out somewhat in terms of viscerality and impact to the bass prowess of the Harmony, but feels slightly faster and more detailed in comparison to the slightly slower and thicker bass produced by the Aurisonics model. For electronica, the larger sub-bass emphasis of the Aria actually works a little better than the more even bass quantity produced by the Harmony across the board, with the Harmony feeling slightly less crisp and detailed as a result. Mids are further back (in the “U”) on the Aria, but have a nice texture and weight nevertheless. They feel a little more detailed than the smoother sound of the Harmony, which produces a more forward and warmer tone overall in this frequency range compared to the more defined and crispy sound of the Aria. Treble is notably more pronounced on the Aria without being overbearing or prone to cause listening fatigue. Technically, the Aria sounds very accomplished in comparison, and the retrieval of audible “micro-detail” feels a notch up on the smooth and musical sound of the Harmony. Soundstage is won by the Harmony (not many IEMs can beat Aurisonics in this facet), but the difference isn’t massive. Separation is edged by the Aria, with the higher detail levels helping to keep the sounds distinct and defined. Build and ergonomics is a draw, with both using 3D printed shells and an ergonomic fit to provide excellent isolation and a great “semi-custom” style fit. Aesthetically, the Aria provide a more classic pseudo-CIEM look with the wooden faceplates, compared to the more industrial plastic shells of the Harmony. This is a difficult call to separate the two – overall, the Aria is a more technically proficient and detailed IEM with a unique tuning, so just edges ahead of the Harmony for me (which was a big surprise as I am a huge fan of the classic Aurisonics “house sound”) unless I am in the mood for something with serious bass impact and presence.
     
    Fidue A83 –  The A83 is a recently discovered favourite of mine, and has a fresh “V” shaped sound that manages to emphasis emotion and texture in the vocals as well as the standard bass and treble facets. The A83 was the former flagship of the Fidue line until the launch of the Sirius, and is another triple driver hybrid, with one dynamic handling bass and two balanced armatures handling the mid and treble frequencies. The current pricing of the A83 seems to hover between $300 and $350, so it is in a slightly lower price bracket than the Aria. In direct comparison, the sound of the A83 is slightly warmer and thicker overall than the Aria, with a more pronounced mid-bass “thumb” and a less crisp overall sound as a result. Overall, the extension on the two is still similar, with the dynamic in the A83 providing excellent sub-bass extension and a little more physical impact, at the cost of some speed and a more even bass tuning from the all-BA Aria. The midrange is slightly more forward on the A83, with a textured sound that highlights the “grit” in the singers voice compared to the more refined and smoother Aria, which still manages to hold its own on the emotion front. In terms of detail retrieval, the Aria gives the impression of having more clarity and resolution than the Fidue, with sounds feeling a little clearer and more defined as a result. In terms of treble, the A83 gives a more emphasised and zesty sound to the treble, tailing off a little sooner than the stratospheric extension the Aria is capable of. Again, the perception of clarity favours the Aria here, with a slightly thinner but more defined treble as compared to the weightier but more energetic and raw sounding A83. Soundstage is similar on both, with neither IEM being concert-hall huge, but both allowing for plenty of separation and placement of audio cues just outside the periphery of the listener’s head. Separation is probably edged by the Aria due to the enhanced crispness of the presentation, although it is close. Ergonomics are similar, with the Aria being slightly more comfortable for long term use. Build quality is definitely won by the Aria for the main body, with the beautiful wooden faceplate and quality 3D printed shells edging out the aluminium and plastic construction of the A83. The cable is a notable exception to the build quality verdict, with the “audiophile” silver-plated copper MMCX cable provided with the A83 feeling more premium than the standard Westone-style CIEM cable that comes with the basic Aria. Overall, the A83 is a great example of an audiophile “V” shaped tuning, providing a warmer and slightly thicker sound, losing a little perception of detail and a tiny amount of stage size and separation compared to the Aria in the process. If you prefer a more sophisticated tuning with higher detail retrieval and a non-fatiguing sound than can deal with extreme bass and treble without breaking sweat, the Aria will win quite comfortably here.
     
    Vibro Labs Maya – I am very lucky to be in possession of the Maya from Vibro Labs at the moment as well, being the first recipient on the UK tour being organised by Luke @ Vibro. In terms of build, the IEMs look almost identical, with the Maya having a different wood faceplate and a transaparent rather than smoky 3D printed shell. The ergonomics, fit and build are otherwise identical. While it is also a 4-BA setup, the Maya retails for $200 more, and has assumed the position as the current “flagship” of the Vibro Labs range. The main differences in the Maya compared to the Aria is in the tuning, with the Maya tuned to bring forward the midrange into a more traditionally neutral sound. In real terms, the boost in the mids and flattening of the “U” in the bass and treble makes the Maya sound a little more energetic than the Aria, with similar punch in the bass but lower quantity and a greater vocal presence due to the boosted mids. The treble is less emphasised but actually slightly more extended on the Maya to my ears – Luke @ Vibro has confirmed he has boosted the frequency response about 16kHz to pull more “room sound” and locational cues in to the music, and even though the Aria is no slouch in that department, the Maya feels like a definite step up in that regard, presenting an almost “in the studio” feel to some tracks. Overall, these two IEMs are far more similar than they are different – for me personally, I lean towards the Aria for my own preferences as I prefer a slightly more laid back and “musical” tuning, but in terms of technical ability and sheer capability, the Maya is a little way ahead on that front. I think they make an excellent pairing, with the more neutral tuning of the Maya pushing the Vibro “house sound” out to a wider audience who may not neccesarily fall for the more laid back charms of the Aria. Neither would be a poor choice, so if you get the chance, try them out to see which version of the tuning you prefer.
     
    Nuforce HEM8 – this is another quad armature IEM in the same price bracket as the aria, with a more conventional driver setup and a very different take on the sound. Where the Aria is broad and pronounced in the lows and highs, the HEM8 is more compact and spherical, with a thicker and meatier note presentation and sense of “substance” than the crisper and more detailed Aria. The bass doesn’t hit as low as the Aria, with notably less thump and a more warm presentation. The treble is also less extended, with a more closed in and clear feel in comparison to the Aria’s endless extension and nice dash of air in the higher registers. The mids are more prominent and chunky on the HEM8 compared to the Aria, but suffer in comparison to the detail. In terms of ergonomics, the HEM8 is a smaller and more comfortable fit, with the Lexan polycarbonate shells looking like a designer coffeebean in comparison to the bigger and more conventional Aria. In terms of accessory package, the HEM8 carries more goodies (including two detachable cables and a variety of tips), but the overall build quality of the IEMs is still similar, with the 3D printed shell and custom looking wooden faceplate of the Aria stacking up very well in comparison. Overall, if you are looking for a richer, less extended sound, then the HEM8 will tick more boxes. If you are after a wider, more detailed and less congested overall presentation with more capable sub-bass and treble, the Aria will win every time, and I feel overall it is the better IEM.
     
    20160920_122002_HDR.jpg
     
    Overall conclusion
     
    This was a difficult review to write, as by my own definitions of what Io enjoy, I shouldn’t like the Aria as much as I do. In actual fact, the unusual tuning and detail and texture on offer have actually slid this into my list of “keeper” IEMs very definitely, causing me to sell on my Fidue A83 and a pair of Nuforce HEM8 (another quad driver IEM) without any regrets. The excellent sound, allied to a beautiful wood finish and 3D printed ergonomics make this an exceptional IEM for me in its “mid-fi” price range. It may not suit everyone, with the bias on sub-bass and higher treble possibly putting off the “No EQ/neutral is everything” tuning crowd, but if you are looking for something smooth but detailed as hell, non fatiguing but energetic enough to get your toes tapping and just plain well-tuned and enjoyable then this IEM (and firm) should certainly be on your radar. In terms of rating, while there might be certain things in terms of tuning and technicalities that won't appeal to everyone, the sheer enjoyment and tuning prowess I feel the Aria exhibit to make such and unusual but addictive sound make them a straight 5 for me. An excellent first effort.
      knopi, hqssui, mrazik and 2 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Luke Pighetti
      Hey @Jackpot77 , thanks for this awesome review. You've pretty much nailed what I am going for with the Aria, I don't think I could have said it better myself!
       
      Can't wait to read the Maya review, be well!
      Luke Pighetti, Oct 3, 2016
    3. Furiousipaduser
      Glad I was able to pass this on to you!
      Furiousipaduser, Oct 3, 2016
    4. Sir Gaben
      They look to good.
      Sir Gaben, Oct 16, 2016
  9. jinxy245
    Aria Sings
    Written by jinxy245
    Published Nov 2, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Healthy bass not overdone, easy to drive, good detail, solid build, beautiful, addictive overall tonality.
    Cons - Highs are not suited for lesser quality recordings, not for the treble sensitive, mids may be too lush for some.
           Let me start by sincerely thanking Luke for organizing this tour. I have (gratefully) been selected to participate in this Headphone Tour, during which I am able to listen to the Aria for one week, at which time I am to mail the earphones to the next participant on the tour (done). The only requirement is to post the review which you see here. Having the opportunity to sample TOTL equipment (or a step below in this case) in the comfort of my own home is an absolute joy for which I am truly grateful. The depths of that gratitude will not however influence me to alter my honest opinion about the Aria, which I guess is unnecessary, because (spoiler alert) it is in fact quite positive.
     
     
           There is one thing I feel I need to address after reading some questioning (grumbling?) about the value of the Aria concerning the driver count to price ratio. I feel this is a rather unfair stick to measure with, although I understand the logic. “It has more, so it MUST be better!” It seems to me that when assigning value to headphones, it has less to do with the driver count than it does the overall implementation. Why else would there be such a large disparity throughout the headphone world? Like the Aria, the Shure 846 is equipped with quad BA drivers and the MSRP is $999, the Campfire Jupiter (also quad) is priced at $899, the new CTM VS-4 (quad) is $599, the Earsonics velvet is a triple driver retailing at $699, and how many drivers are actually in the Noble Audio Savant (MSRP $599)? The question should not be “how many drivers” but “how does it sound”? Since Vibro Labs has dropped the price to $499, I’d consider Aria to have a particularly good bang for the buck (All prices quoted are MSRP in USD).
     
    Build Quality, Accessories, isolation and Comfort
     
           Build quality I found to be quite good, with solid, high quality plastic and beautiful (IMHO) dark colored wood. No seams were visible, and no bubbles found in the plastic. I had no worries about the cable connection. There were no audio drop outs, and the memory wire worked well enough (never an issue for me). I never attempted to remove the cable, but a quick wiggle confirmed a secure connection. The cable itself did seem fairly generic yet appeared comparable in quality to the one included with my 64 Audio U6 (MSRP $899 USD, although I bought the Adel version on sale) and performed without issue. I’m not sure what accessories come with a retail purchase, but the tour setup had the Earphones in a zippered semi-rigid case, a pelican style case, a plethora of genuine Comply tips (both comfort & isolation style) and a generous supply of alcohol wipes for the remainder of the tour. The only odd omission was an earwax cleaning tool (unless it was lost in transit).
    Although this is a light pair of earphones, they are on the larger side. If compared with my Shure 535 (3 BA drivers and they feel like they disappear in my ears) the Aria felt ginormous, although they don’t look that much bigger in photos. In fact, Aria stuck out of my ear a bit further than my U6 (6 BA drivers). This is because the nozzle too is quite large, with 2 bores through which sound is delivered. The bore size is again reminiscent of my quad bore U6. Tip selection becomes even more paramount to getting a good seal since you can’t overcome any deficiencies with deeper insertion. I wouldn’t say they were uncomfortable when worn, but I was always physically aware that Aria was there. To spite the size of the nozzle and the shallow fit, the isolation was among the best IEMs I’ve tried.
     
    Listening Impressions Intro
     
           Before I offer my listening impressions, I’ll start with a little about myself. I’m pushing 50 and have less than perfect hearing (50 is pushing back). I’ve been a music lover for as long as I can remember, and I learned to listen a little more critically during the few years I sold audio equipment (and the more I listen, the more I learn). My fascination/infatuation with headphones began about 4 years ago, and has only gotten stronger. The majority of my listening was done listening to FLAC, WAV & various MP3s with my Shanling M3, Fiio x3 (1st gen.) or through my HP all in one PC and Audioquest Dragonfly1.2. My tastes are fairly eclectic, but my listening centered on classic rock, folk, jazz, classical and various genres of EDM. I didn’t bother with burning in the headphones even though Luke did have the tour earphones sent in for re-conditioning before I received them. Corresponding with Luke he noted that the drivers were not affected and additional burn in was not necessary, nor did I hear any difference throughout my evaluation.
     
    Sensitivity & Tip Rolling
     
           Aria was very easy to drive, needing just a tad more volume than the IEMs I have on hand. I was able to reach unsafe listening with any device I tried. When briefly testing with my Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Nook tablet, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of sound. While no real competition for higher quality gear, the Samsung/Aria combo was overall a satisfying listen for non-critical listening on the go. I didn’t do much in the way of tip rolling. I did experiment with the double flange tips that came with my 64 Audio, which worked well. I found them to tighten the bass a hair, with an equal peak in the treble, which I didn’t think Aria needed, so I did the majority of my listening with the isolation style Comply tips.
     
    Sound
     
           My initial impressions were not what I was expecting. I’ve read so much about the extension in the bass and treble, I was anticipating a more “v” shaped sound signature, which I guess is technically true, because the mids are not as prominent. I would not call them recessed, though. I’ll go ahead and break the sound into the usual categories.
     
    Bass
     
           I find the sub bass solid, with just the right amount of emphasis for my tastes. A quick tonal sweep (thank you, YouTube) showed fairly strong presence at 30 HZ, and I heard the tone as low as 24 HZ. Anything in my collection with notes that low (basically Dance, I don’t have any Organ Concertos) sounded awesome, with deep rich bass that never sounded bloated or distorted (unless recorded that way). The mid bass sounds less bumped up to my ear, definitely enhanced but not intruding in the mids at all. During songs like “Different Shades of Blue” (Joe Bonamassa) or “Another One Bites the Dust” (Queen…one of my favorite mid-bass tests), the bass line always sounded full, rich & detailed, but never overbearing unlike some bass enhanced headphones. All of my Rock and Dance music had a solid, vibrant foundation that I particularly enjoyed.
     
    Mids
     
           The mids sound lush, with a good amount of detail. These are definitely not ‘Mid-Head’ earphones, but I found the relaxed smooth presentation addictive with almost everything I listened to. The possible exception is a couple of binaural recordings I usually use for reviews (I just love the recording). Aria had the vocals on “Bring it on Home” by C.C. Coletti sounding a bit too distant; however I found the mellow mids to benefit many other recordings with vocals placed more prominently in the mix (Adel comes to mind). Keyboards & guitars were well served, even if there was a touch less intimacy than I prefer.
     
    Highs
     
           The highs were definitely endowed with extra presence, bringing a little more life to many recordings. “Meatball Love Tone” is a wonderfully odd tune by a band called Vinyette, and the cymbal work throughout the song was well served by the treble lift. On the flip side, the treble could be a little much in certain ‘hot’ low res (192 mbps) recordings such as Ritchie Kotzen’s cover of “I Want You Back”. Aria rendered the high hats and such here with a little too much of an aural sheen that borders on the unnatural, but I’d guess that also to be a reflection of the lesser quality file.
     
    Soundstage
     
           Soundstage was wide and tall, but not overly deep. Complex passages were handled well with very good instrument separation. I was pleasantly surprised listening to classical and big band and less surprised with denser rock & dance music. I did in fact find Aria to pair particularly well with classic rock. While not the widest soundstage I’ve heard, I felt Aria was above average in this regard and a pleasure to listen to. One soundstage anomaly I thought worth mentioning was listening to Green Day’s “Basket Case”. The harmonies sounded as if they were coming from about six feet above and to the left of Billy Joe’s head. This is the only time I was drawn out of the music, and I didn’t hear anything else out of place throughout my listening. (I repeated it during couple of tries and damn, I thought it was weird at the time!)
     
    Comparisons
     
           I know many readers are itching for comparisons with other earphones, so I’ll do my best to give some observations. I’ll start by saying these are general impressions only, I did all volume balancing by ear, and this is obviously in no way scientific. I have too much respect for the reviewers, here on Head-Fi & elsewhere who use calibrated meters and software to make any claims of accuracy. As much as I try to balance by ear, even a small difference in volume would change my (or anyone else’s) opinion as to which is better, so without proper testing equipment, that would be impossible. Whatever opinions I am about to offer are just that, opinions. If that sounds like it might be of interest to you, please read on!
     
    Westone UM 20
     
           I have 3 IEMs that might be appropriate for comparison: Westone UM 20, Shure SE 535, and 64 Audio U6. The Westone is a dual BA driver IEM that retails for $299.  Build quality is on par overall, with the UM 20 being smaller & more comfortable, and isolation being comparable. (Although it’s subjective, I found Aria to be the prettier of the two.)The Westone has a similar amount of sub-bass as Aria, but it is overshadowed by a more zealous (but not overbearing) mid-bass, which is more relaxed on Vibro Labs’ offering. The mids on the Westone are slightly more forward, with Aria taking a step back, and the highs are more rolled off with the Westone, Aria having the more vivid presentation. The UM 20 has the most intimate soundstage of the bunch, feeling noticeably narrower than & not as tall as Aria, with similar depth. Although there is a tonal difference, Westone does nothing wrong, per se and does a lot well. Only you can decide if Aria is worth the extra $200. My preferences lean toward Aria.
     
     Audio U6 (Adel B1 Module)
     
           On the other end of the spectrum, is the 64 Audio U6. Again I feel build quality to be similar, with Aria getting the aesthetic nod (I just love the way Aria looks). As earlier described, comfort in this comparison is a dead heat. U6 may sit a little more flush to my ear, but I find it no more comfortable. Aria has better isolation, likely because of the Adel technology in the U6. Sub bass has the edge going to Aria, and mid bass is a touch more plentiful as well, 64 Audio being just a little more linear. The U6 have the mids more forward and detailed, Aria sounding more relaxed. Moving on up to the highs, Aria again shines the brightest, not with more detail, but more forward in the mix, 64 Audio sounding less vibrant without sounding rolled off. Aria may have a slight height advantage, but U6 is both wider and deeper. I agonized over my 64 Audio purchase, but I still find it to be the sound signature I return to again & again.
     
    Shure SE 535
     
           I saved the Shure for last, because at $499 retail, this seems to be the closest value. Build is once again on par, Aria being the reigning beauty queen. Comfort is no contest, the Shure all but disappearing into my ear. The Shure also edges out the Aria in isolation, but barely. Sub & mid bass are much livelier from Aria, with the 535’s lower region being what textbook neutrality is in my mind. Shure is known for midrange, so it’s no surprise that they are more prominent than Aria, though that wasn’t always a positive. There are recordings that have the Shure sounding a bit too ‘in your face’, and in those instances Aria’s midrange warmth was the more welcome of the two. The highs are more stepped up with Aria, the Shure taking a backseat, although I didn’t notice any less detail here either. The Width and height go to Aria, and the depth being too close to call. With 2 very different sound signatures, it really comes down to a matter of preference, and for my money, I’d be happier with Aria.
     
    Conclusion
     
           There you have it. I think Luke has designed a fine IEM that remains competitive in this constantly growing market. With Aria, you have a beautifully built earphone with soaring highs, lush mids supported by a solid bass foundation, accented by a fairly wide and tall soundstage. While certainly not everyone’s sonic cup of tea, I more than enjoyed my time with Aria. If you get a chance to hear them, I think you would understand why.
    1. Luke Pighetti
      Anthony, I feel ARIA is very well represented by your review. Thank you!
      Luke Pighetti, Nov 2, 2016
  10. bhazard
    An Excellent 4BA with Actual Bass
    Written by bhazard
    Published Dec 21, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Bass, Imaging, Resolution
    Cons - Mids, Fit, Value
    Introduction
     
    Vibro Labs is a small company in Maine founded by Luke Pighetti. They specialize in “daily driver heirlooms”, and I was lucky enough to be picked for their ARIA tour. I am an owner of their IEM measurement device the “Veritas”, which I use to take measurements of all the IEMs I now purchase/receive.
     
    REVIEW
     
    This review will be a bit short as I only had the Aria for little more than a week, but I can give solid impressions of what I heard. To put things in perspective, it is easily one of the best IEMs I’ve heard to date ($500 and under), and one of the best measuring ones as well. There were a few hiccups though, which I will explain below.
     
    Apologies for no pictures, as they were lost in a phone transfer.
     
    Specifications
     
    ·         Circassian Walnut
    ·         Smoke SLA shells
    ·         20Hz – 20kHz
    ·         15Ω impedance
    ·         110 dB/mw sensitivity
     
    Accessories/Packaging
     
    ·         Aria earphone
    ·         2-pin detachable cable
    ·         Standard case
    ·         Comply Comfort & Isolate tips
    ·         2-year warranty
     
    Housing/Fit/Isolation
     
    Let’s start with one of the strongest aspects of the Aria… the beautiful housing it comes in. When Luke claims the Vibro IEMs as “Heirlooms”, the quality of the design and materials back up that statement. The Walnut finish compares more to a finish that you would see on a high-end speaker than what you would normally find on an IEM. The build is solid, but the housing itself is quite large… which leads to one of the problems I had with the Aria.
     
    The large size of the housing plus the Comply Tips (of any size) were simply too big for my ears. The housing would awkwardly sit on my ear, while the comply tips would never truly seal, robbing the Aria of its subbass. You could tell the Aria was tuned for the comply tips, as switching over to silicone tips like the JVC Spiral Dots caused the upper treble to hit with some harshness. Even though this was the most comfortable setup, I had to switch to the smallest Comply Isolate tips and really had to squeeze them in for the best results, despite being much less comfortable. Isolation was not a problem once a seal was made.
     
    Cable
     
    A nice 2 pin cable was included, and balanced options are available. I tried using a Fiio 2-Pin Balanced cable I have, but it didn’t fit the unit well. I’m not sure if it was from a beaten-up review unit, or if the cable itself just wasn’t truly made to handle it (I assume the latter)
     
    Sound
    Testing Gear (in order of quality)
     
    LH Labs Pulse X Infinity 2.0
    LH Labs Geek Out V2+ Infinity
    ZTE Axon 7 (USB Audio Player Pro)
    Asrock Fatality amped onboard DAC/amp
     
    Music used for testing
    Meshuggah, Metallica, Alter Bridge, Iron Maiden, Buckethead, Korn, Testament, Alice in Chains, Danny Brown, Deadmau5, many more
     
    Amplifier Needed?
    No (but use a good one anyway)
     
    Sound Signature
     
    U shaped with strong subbass (for a pure BA setup), slightly recessed mids around vocals, excellent treble extension
     
    This measurement was taken with Vibro’s own Veritas, showing one of the better graphs I’ve measured
     
    aria.jpg
     
    This mostly lines up with what Vibro measures it at, so I know my Veritas is working. Great job guys!
     
    Bass
     
    I wasn’t expecting much bass from a quad BA setup, but the Aria surprised me. There was more than enough bass present without having me yearn for an added dynamic driver. Bass levels, speed, and clarity were nice and tight. All of this gets ripped away if you do not get a proper seal however, which happened to me far too often from basic movement.
     
    Midrange
     
    Although it didn’t really show in the FR graph, some recession can be heard in the mids. The vocals and guitar mixes seem to take a step back to the rest of the sound, sounding a bit distant. Sure, you can increase the volume, but it doesn’t truly bring everything out evenly. The mids still have exceptional clarity, but they are a weak point in the sound.
     
    Treble
     
    The Aria has excellent treble extension and clarity. With the Comply tips, it rolls off before becoming harsh, but with silicone tips it can get to be a bit too much. It can get a bit hot at times, but it wasn’t the norm at regular listening volume. Everything is naturally presented, and the strength of the unit lies within its slightly boosted treble (and bass)
     
    Soundstage, Imaging, Resolution
     
    Soundstage is well above average with some nice width. Imaging and resolution are also well above average, with a slight knock against the slight sibilance that would appear every so often. It isn’t a holographic listen, but it is something you would expect and find that most IEMs under $400 lack.
     
    Comparisons
     
    I can’t really compare the Aria to anything else in my collection, as its price level and performance is much higher than what I normally use.
     
    Conclusion
     
    I loved listening to the Aria, but overall it wasn’t for me (mostly from the fit and mids). Now, if I went with the custom Aria, a lot of my problems would be solved, but I myself cannot stomach getting into that price range.
     
    I’m more of a value oriented, bang for the buck, budget oriented Head-fi’er, and the Aria doesn’t really fit into that segment. It does offer a sound worthy of its $500 price tag, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking how it could shake up some competition if it were to be offered at say $350 or so.
     
    Vibro offers excellent customer support, and their warranty/replacement policies are more than acceptable. Add to that their upgrade program and you get a lot of extras for your money than you would initially think.
     
    I’d like to thank Luke and Vibro Labs for the review opportunity with the Aria. They will be on my radar in the future for sure!
      Luke Pighetti likes this.