The Atrios originally came with somewhat bendable plastic tubing around the wires near the earphones themselves, to enable the user to find a "personalized" fit for looping the wires over the ears. (I wear my M5s "down," and the memory wire really isn't needed for that.)
At least one owner has carefully sliced the memory wire "tubing" off of the wires of his original version M5s. Apparently, the new version of the Atrios uses no memory wire.
UE IEMs, from what I understand, tend to be more analytical, so there really isn't a good comparison. UE would compare better with Shure or Etymotics or any other armature driven IEMs. Future Sonics goes for a more "natural" sound signature. The only headphone/earphone that has a comparable sound signature that I've heard would be Sennheisers.
Originally Posted by dmashta /img/forum/go_quote.gif What model in the UE lineup does the M5 compare to? As reference, I have the SF5pro and the Tri.Fi. From reading this thread, I get the sense that it'll be slightly below the SF5?
I have a bunch of UEs including the SF3, SF5EB as well as the Atrio M8. The Atrio is not "below" the SF5, nor is it necessarily "above". It is hard to compare the Atrio with any in the UE lineup because the sound signatures are very different. The UE IEM most likely to be compared with the Atrio is not the SF5, but the SF5EB for a couple reasons
Both IEMs appeal to bassheads
The street price for both are close
However, this is pretty much where the similarity ends. Let me share my experience with both IEMs from the POV of a basshead.
The SF5EB was unabashedly created for and marketed to bassheads - a very non-audiophile endeavor. The Atrio M5/8 (5=black 8=blue) was not created for bassheads, but their proprietary dynamic driver won over bassheads as they happen to reproduce really deep bass for an IEM. Stage and recording monitoring is the intended market of the Atrios. This shows (or 'sounds') in the respective sound signatures.
The SF5EB has a 'boomier' bass - the upper bass is more prominent and it makes you feel the thump and bump in music (but not the deep bass rumble as much). After a long burn-in, the SF5EB muddiness goes away, and it seems that the EQ on the SF5EB emphasizes mid-bass and treble. The Atrio has a more detailed bass but a darker-sounding less prominent treble.
If you're in love with the UE sound, the Atrio will be an acquired taste - it doesn't have the sparkly highs. Though the SF5EB doesn't share the same sound with the rest of the UE line up, it strives to have the same sparkly highs. The SF5EB sounds energetic - also something I find with my other UEs.
The Atrio sounds dark in comparison - detail and transparency are there, but it does not have the sharp leading edges or apparent detail of the UE. Music on the Atrio sounds more natural to me, and less fatiguing. Even bass heavy music sounds relaxing with the Atrio while still being engaging. But the treble in the SF5EB is more prominent so the Atrio initially sounds veiled in comparison.
The midrange on the Atrio outshines the SF5EB. Not even a close contest here. Atrio vocals are clear and lush, and never get lost regardless of the genre of music. Jazz vocal music sounds very natural and engaging, but does not have the crystalline treble of UE.
Atrio bass quantity is perceived to be less than the UESF5EB's, but the Atrio is more detailed bass-wise. Instead of emphasizing a particular bandwidth in the bass region, the Atrio tries to be balanced across the spectrum. Atrio's bass has great impact and extends low, real low and I hear the very deep low rumble in the Atrio - harder to hear that in the SF5EB with its overwhelming mid/upper bass. If you want the hear quantity of bass and not so much bass texture/detail, the SF5EB is for you - in some recordings the bass has no texture anyway.
A few other observations:
Listening volume: If I were to name just one thing that makes the Atrio unique, it is the presence of bass at low volumes. If you listen to your music loud anyway, then the Atrio has no advantage in this regard.
Comfort, fit and isolation: Atrio has better isolation and comfort and has more tip options (can use Shure olives without modification, Comply tips available - same T100 used for Shure). SF5EB will not fit some ears because of the size of the silicon tips and will end up in the outer ear rather than ear canal in some. Comply foam tips T400/T500 may help. Atrio is more fussy about insertion technique as the eartips are inserted deeper. SF5EBs are like putting on earbuds so some isolation is sacrificed. For me, the Atrio needs to be worn with the cable over the ear to be more deeply inserted. The current version has no memory wire, supposedly an improvement.
Bass: Atrio has better bass detail, SF5EB has slightly more quantity of bass. You'll hear bass detail with the Atrio you didn't realize your music had. The SF5EB has more bass slam at the expense of bass detail.
Vocals: Atrio definitely better - clear, natural and warm. SF5EB has a strong low and high end, but I feel like there's a 'hole in the middle'. On long listening sessions, the SF5EB can be fatiguing as I have to strain to hear the vocals. The vocals in the Atrio stay the focus of the music regardless of genre.
Sound signature: Atrio is less fatiguing and sounds more natural (subjective) - nature of dynamic driver vs balanced armature, perhaps. SF5EB has an energetic treble, but Atrio has a more natural, relaxing sound (dynamic driver) at the expense of a muted treble. If I'm stuck on a plane for 16 hours, I prefer the Atrio as it can be tough to listen to a UE IEM for that long with the energetic treble. On most DAPs' EQ, it is easier to decrease the amount of bass than it is to increase the quality of bass. Likewise, the SF5EB's brightness can be tamed by EQ, but no amount of EQ will bring the vocals to the level of the Atrio, nor will any amount of EQ bring sparkly highs to the Atrio. However, no amount of EQ on your SF5 and TF10 will bring the kind of bass to you can experience with the Atrio or SF5EB. Pick your trade-off.
Soundstage: Neither soundstage is very immersive compared with customs or full-sized headphones. The SF5EB is more in-your-face and the Atrio has a wider soundstage. They both provide an option to enjoy your bass in private but do not really immerse you in the acoustic space of the recording compared with customs or full-sized headphones.
Packaging: The UE metal case is great, the Atrio semi-hard case is too big for IEMs alone, yet too small to fit an iPod Touch. Atrio comes with more useable fit/tip options. The different UE silicon tips basically fit the same but alter noise isolation, included foam tips I found useless compared with Comply tips.
Build Quality: Comparable. However, the Atrio does not have user-replaceable cables - which also means there's no connector to break. The cable connector on the UE earpiece is it's weak point - you can plug and unplug the cable without a problem, but if you apply a rotational force you will almost certainly break it. Atrio's cable is much more flexible and easier to coil up and store. UE's cable is rather stiff and the entire cable becomes 'memory' wire after awhile - store a UE cable coiled long enough and it will be hard to straighten completely. However, both cables are very tangle-resistant. Both look like they'll stand up to normal use.
If you're a basshead, you will love both the SF5EB and Atrio. If you are NOT a basshead, you may hate the SF5EB but still like the Atrio. The Atrio has more headroom in terms of EQ (flatter default EQ), soundstage (less in-your-face) and listening volume (I don't mean dynamic range, I mean bassheads can enjoy bass on the Atrio at a lower starting volume).
Wow, thanks for the very detailed comparison. I've been wanting to pick up a pair of the Atrios but wasn't sure if they sounded different enough from the SF5 to justify the purchase. Your explanation just convinced me to order a pair.
I only assumed they were 'below' the SF5 because I thought of them as more bass-oriented, hence more in line with the SF5EB.
I just had a question regarding the durability of the wires.
I own a pair of Shure E4c's, and I had to get them replaced after using them for less then a year because the wires below the earbud started cracking.
Anyone have any trouble with these after using them for less then a year?
I'm considering placing an order with SoundEarPhones, and they have the original m8 and then the m5 is revision 2. I was wondering if anyone knows what the differences between the two are. (searched the Future Sonics website, but couldn't find any information on the differences)