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Hi Head-Fi/Vibro Labs fans,
I was the second stop on the Aria tour, and I've had a great week reviewing them. This post will contain some of my thoughts and impressions, and I'll be touching on several different aspects of the Arias. We'll go over the build quality, appearance, and of course - sound quality.
I won't hide the pictures - check them out at this link. I'll be referencing them throughout the review.
The way that Luke has (graciously) set up this tour is that every user will get a week to gather their thoughts and impressions, and that's exactly what I've been doing over the past week. I've taken the Arias with me to work and just listened to them for large parts of the day in order to have enough time to put together some real impressions.
If you'd like to see the playlist that I used for the most part, click here to check it out on Spotify. I keep it updated with all of the tracks that I use for critical listening. During my testing I ran the Arias through the iFi Micro iDAC 2 (with the iPurifier) for the most part, but there were also a few instances when I just ran them off of my Nexus 5X. All music was either Spotify streamed at 'extreme' quality (just 320 kbps) or played off of local FLAC files.
Fair warning, I'm not a 'real' audiophile - I just like my music to sound good, and it's as simple as that. I'll be honest and objective in the review, but if I'm slightly off on some of my audio terms please forgive me
Packaging, Accessories, and Build Quality
The Arias arrived in great condition from @sq3rjick, and I'd attribute part of that to the excellent case that they ship with. It looks to be a variant of a Pelican or other high end travel case, and really does a great job of keeping everything safe and secure. It's got laser cut foam that fits really well inside, and that means that the Arias don't move at all once you have them in place. The case also includes an information card in the bottom with the model, serial number, and Luke's signature. Neat addition.
This is a section I normally include in my reviews, but I'll keep it extra short in this one - the Arias are pretty standard accessories-wise, and I've found that in general most high end IEMs or customs will be similar to each other in this aspect. The tour edition included an absurd amount of Comply tips and alcohol cleaning pads, but the standard editions will include a more normal amount of tips. You'll get a cleaning tool as well.
Okay, so the Arias are 3D printed. That's pretty cool, and it ended up working really well for the universal version. I'd be interested to see how that would pan out for a custom, but in theory it would end up being about the same final quality. If you run your finger across the surface of the Arias it feels perfectly smooth, but visually you can see the effects of 3D printing - it looks to be very slightly dimpled. It ends up being a really neat effect, and the shells are still very clear for being 3D printed. The internal components are easy to see, and you can tell that this set of Arias was very well built. The included cable is just your standard 2pin.
Size wise, the Aria customs were surprisingly small. They fit into my ears really well and were really comfortable, and even though they were a universal version the Comply tips did a great job of noise isolation.
I've only got two small complaints for build quality, the first being that the 'ripples' on the shell make the Arias less visually appealing when compared to your typical poured shell custom. The second concern is potentially more of an issue, and that is that the connector for the 2pin cable on the shell are at a slight angle. This means that the pins on the cable themselves will end up bending to fit into the shell properly (check out the pictures for an example of this). It's not a huge deal once you've got the cable inserted, but at least with this pair of Arias if you're switching cables more than a few times it would likely make the pins weaker from all the bending. If you've got an expensive aftermarket cable you'd want to be careful.
Alright guys, I'm going to keep this section semi-short compared to the rest. I'm much better at just getting the main impressions out fast than going in-depth on comparisons and minute details, so that's what I'm going to do.
The highs/treble on the Arias are definitely a highlight. Good extension and a lot of reach makes songs that play well with treble really shine. I don't want to say that the sound signature is entirely V-shaped, but to my ears the focus has more treble than the advertised warm signature would suggest.
The bass is really good as well. It's very precise and controlled, and the extension is definitely up (or down?) there. If you really take the time to listen for it, there's a lot of detail and depth to the bass, and it's never boomy or overpowered. As a bass lover, this is something that I'm really happy about.
So to recap what I'm trying to convey so far - we've got well controlled treble with really good extension, and we've got bass/sub-bass with exceptional quality and control.
Not so good things
The mids are where the the Arias start to struggle. The mids aren't as upfront as the rest of the sound, which almost makes them sound recessed with certain songs. This isn't to say that they sound bad, it's just that they aren't there in a lot of cases. If you're all about that treble life it won't be as much of an issue, but it's definitely something to keep in mind.
Also in this section I have to include something... more on bass. A quick visit to the Vibro Labs website promotes the Arias as being warm, and possessing "deep bass extension". A warm signature does suggest high quality (and in some cases lots of) bass, but that's something that I felt was missing with the Arias. Yes, there is some bass (as covered earlier), but in my opinion it felt to be a bit lacking. My personal preference is a true 'warm' signature, with lots of high quality bass - which makes sense, as I'm a basshead. This isn't to say that the bass is poor quality, as it was very controlled and presented well. The sub-bass is really solid, but overall the quantity just wasn't there. Same takeaway as before - this might not be an issue for you, but it's something to keep in mind.
Yes, I have complaints, but overall I enjoyed my time with the Arias. While the mids most certainly could use some work, I still found my head bobbing and the music was enjoyable. They definitely made my week go by faster!
Regarding purchase advice, I think that if you're looking at purchasing the Arias you should keep the price tag at the front of your mind. The universal version retails at $599, and the customs at $699, which does seem high to me for what you get. At that price point my personal choice would be to gloss over the Arias in favor of something with more bass power and mid refinement. Remember that $600 will buy you a lot in terms of sound quality (think Noble or 64 Audio), so keep comparisons in mind as well when making the final choice.
In the end it does come down to sound preference, and keep in mind that my personal preferences may be different that your own.
Thanks for reading the review guys, hope you enjoyed! I'll be looking forward to seeing more impressions in the coming weeks
I hate to say it, while that was a good write-up I am disappointed with what you found. I ordered a pair a couple weeks ago (still patiently waiting) and was hoping for a strong bass presence but the clarity specially on mids. It doesn't sound like these are there.
My fingers are crossed that I like them better!
looking at your profile the aria sounds really good with edm/electronic, you might be alright
From my experience the stock cable recesses the mids and steals some details, but with all other cables I've been able to try the Aria with, including the stock Noble cable, the mids are more present. The Aria also likes power, so the mojo works very well with them and at home my older naim DAC or new chord Dave DAC works even better. The Iem seem to like power and better dac's to get better separation, definitely V shaped sound if you just use the phone jack or dfb. Dfr or better DAC amps seems to suit the Aria. My only compliant about the Aria is the stock cable, not great at the IEM's price point.
Switched cable to linum, have a xdp-100r, akjr, hifim8, iphone 6+ and mids are still recessed in some music mostly vocal folk/classic rock. With pop/edm/electronic/hip hop its less of an issue.
I don't think you're going to get 'strong' bass presence, but very good and detailed bass. It's only slightly above neutral in terms of bass. Bassheads might be disappointed.
I also find them to be just slightly warm of neutral, my advice is change out the stock cable, even the reasonable other cable option Luke has is a noticeable improvement. The plus sound trimetal is much better but 3-4 times its price. The trimetal opens the mids up a bit more, but really separates and defines the sounds nicely, much more airy. There is no real gain in bass just better definition in the bass and a bit more 3D effect in the bass from gentle to deep.
Hopefully you'll still enjoy them, keep in mind that I like a lot of bass. If you're not as much of a bass fanatic as me it probably won't be a huge issue.
Failed to mention that I also used a Linum BaX cable during my testing and basically found that in the end it doesn't change much about the sound.
If your willing to spend a little money switching to the silver, gold, copper trimetal stranded cable gave a noticeably different sound, about as much as switching from a df to a mojo. Not as much as using a df to my home DAC the Dave. But using better DAC/power and better cables can make a real diiference, works the same way as home systems. Speaker or headphones are only part of the sound you hear, works the same with your source title or onkyo verse iTunes.
cost of trimetal stranded cable? Cheers
It's $250, for the four stranded one.
Heres is the link. We have several cable builds, all at different pricing.
Same here. Moon Audio Silver Dragon balanced, several copper balanced and SE cables (both commercial and ones I have made), Noble stock cable, a silver cable that I made -- none of these made much difference in sound for me. Biggest change was from going from SE to balanced. Type of cable otherwise had almost no perceptible change.