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Vibro Labs Aria quad armature in-ear monitor

Rating:
4/5,
  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
     
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    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.
     
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    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,
     
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    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
     
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    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.
     
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    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.
     
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    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.
     
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    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.
     
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    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.
     
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    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.
     
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    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.
     
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    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