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Vibro Labs Aria quad armature in-ear monitor

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