It is amazing when you look how far a company have come. I first heard Aurisonics back in 2012 when I purchased an original ASG-1. Since then they have broadened their range to 7 products where 3 have an additional custom version) and had an extremely successful Kickstarter project in Rockets. The G stood for generic and it was their universal fit version of their single driver custom. It got people interested as it used a fairly big dynamic driver and you don’t really get 10mm and larger dynamic drivers in CIEMs or of this custom like universal fit form factor. Today the ASG-1 1.0 (different to the current ASG-1.5 you can get) is terrible, in fact I don’t know how I ever liked it but I did. Thankfully Aurisonics worked hard to develop what they had and there were many iterations over the years including a new model in the ASG-2, which featured a full range dynamic driver with two balanced armature tweeters. This is a stepping stone to what we have today, the ASG-2.5, which will be a long overdue revisit to this brand of IEMs.
Hybrids are becoming more and more common and almost a buzzword in universal IEM designs but Aurisonics CEO Dale Lott is a bit more eccentric than most and with his hybrid designs, it isn’t as simple and a dynamic driver as a woofer and the armature handling the rest of the frequency range. No Aurisonics know dynamic drivers and they like them full range so that exactly what you have in the ASG2.5 and it’s a big one at 14.2mm (which is funny as Aurisonics are also pioneering tiny ones in Rockets). I love big dynamic drivers, just look what Sony did with the MDR-EX1000 and I know they are more than capable for a full range sound but Aurisonics wanted a little extra edge, some extra sparkle, something that traditionally speaking balanced armature receivers are known for, so they dedicated two as tweeters. It is a completely different take on a driver configuration that is becoming pretty mainstream and I like that, even if I am trying not to take to much notice of what goes on in an earphone these days.
A Universal That’s Customisable
How’s the cost then, well my polished red ASG-2.5 is $699 and that’s as cheap as you will get one. It also how much you will have to muster up if you want the black version but what about if you’re into things a little more luxury or you wear a chain around your neck. Well then $899 will get you the brushed nickel version and for $1099, well you’ve got a 24k gold earphone. Yes the more expensive options are aesthetic and don’t get you a better earphone but as long as they aren’t forcing you to pay for something you can’t afford (ahem Lotoo Paw Gold) then I am all behind the more bling options and from the pictures I have seen they justify the price in finish. Worth noting though is that the UK price seems to be £749 (from hifiheadphones.co.uk), that’s just plain silly. Fortunately though I found them from thomann.de for £403, much more reasonable.
The build is tight and well engineered, these are earphones built in the USA and they have also pushed the means of creation since my original ASG-1 and these are now 3D printed, which is always effective for a flawlessly finished shell. The red shell looks nice from a distance but on further inspection it’s a shame you can’t see the guts of the earphone. Maybe that is to protect itself from copycats, I can empathise to that. The acrylic seems thicker that most of my customs and the faceplate is screwed tightly in place.
The nozzles are also well designed with wax guards to stop anything getting into the earphones to cause potential damage to the drivers.
Obviously the cables are removable and you get a very generic stock cable, like I have recieved with many earphones before these. Handily being black it wont oxidise like my original ASG-1s cable which is now a dark green.
The only thing i will moan about is that my right connector has become loose and started to fall out on its own and even while in my ear on one occasion. The female connectors are reccessed in the housing and I think my pins may have bent a touch causing them to not be able to insert fully.
When it comes to making a universal or generic fit earphone, Aurisonics have never rushed it and throughout their revisions, they have taken feedback seriously on where to improve. On top of that they also have scanned all the impressions they have received for custom products to analyse the shapes of different peoples ears to find a design, that ideally, will fit everyone. Sadly though I prefer the fit of the original ASG-1, which I know some people had problems with but that’s the way it is. These have quite a lot of curves on the outside and I feel like some of them just rub a bit in my ears but in all accounts they still fit well, and have isolation to boot on top of that.
Where’s the customisation then? Well in the sound of course, you know, my favourite happening trend in this industry at the moment (you will get the sarcasm if you’ve read my Earsonics Velvet review). These uses a mechanism similar to the JH Audio Siren Series (although technically Aurisonics were doing it before them but there not exactly the first) with dials on each channel to adjust the bass. Like my Roxanne and Velvet these come with a little screwdriver but unlike the Roxanne, you can’t adjust while listening. Well you can, it just wouldn’t be easy with the dials being on the housings. The bass changes is a flat lift from the mid-bass all the way to the sub-bass, I would say that the lift starts about 250hz and goes as deep as you’d like as these earphone go there. For me there was enough bass with the ports closed so after a little try opening them up, they remained closed for good.
Before we get to the sound, I will quickly note what goodies come with these and you get a nice branded otterbox like hard case (that could be bigger), cleaning tool, tuner screwdriver and also a range of Aurisonics own tips (SureSeal), which sure are interesting and unique in design although I got a better seal with some others in my collection, such as the SpinFit tips I recently looked at.
No Longer the Mid Centric
The ASG-1 was one polarising earphone, it was about as midrange forward as they come and vocals were shouted into your face at an alarming rate. Aurisonics have matured in terms of sound signature and the company have since decided they like some bass as well. That’s not to say these are a particularly bassy earphone, there is an obvious drive from the low end, but it is in quite a dry fashion and going up in the frequency response everything is just quite mellow and chilled out. I don’t find anything particularly offensive with these earphones, there is nice space and most importantly, I don’t hear any stand out flaws.
The bass is capable and sits a smidgen above the rest of the sound bands. I find a great balance between the deep bass and mid-bass, they have good harmony and understanding of their capabilities. Take the sub-bass for example, it extends endlessly but only takes a bit of a boost and doesn’t get big headed. A big competitor for this will be the similarly priced Earsonics Velvet which also has bottomless bass but that takes to much focus, it stands above the mid-bass and even gets distracting in some not so bassy tracks. This is much more focussed and a I find it gels much better with a wider variety of music, providing the deep queues in some produced music such as EDM and also not feeling a need of involvement with acoustics tracks and the likes. While the mid-bass isn’t by any means huge, it has just a bit more bloom compare to some others such as the DUNU DN-2000 or HiFiMAN RE-600. Not in the usual wet and powerful way though, its more relaxed and has less power, I don’t find these to be an earphone that has the last say in impact, its more of just a complete and wholesome bass that has some extra decay and a dry feel.
Although it became fatiguing, the megaphone like mids of the ASG-1 made it stand out from the hundreds of other new earphones. The midrange now doesn’t seem to do so at all. It is only a touch behind the bass and not near as recessed as say with the Kennerton Algiz but it just doesn’t seem to give me any magic. It is quite a smooth midrange and it is also forgiving but I find it lacking in detail and even more so focus. Edges of instruments are soft, individual notes blurry and voices lack emotion. It isn’t tight enough, it isn’t engrossing, it isn’t real. I said it earlier these don’t have stand out flaws but these aren’t a cheap earphone and considering the levels of details and realism I am getting for 200 bucks more in some of my CIEMs like the Hidition Viento-R or Ultimate Ears Reeference Monitor (although a direct comparison does leave the reference CIEMs seem a bit anemic) these becomes a hard pill to swallow. The fact it lacks vividness ends up presenting its own qualities though and the soft tone is creamy and easy on the ears at all time, it is also thick and bodied with adds to the feel of the earphones big sound. I will bring up a comparison with the Velvet again though and these are much more balanced through the mids, with the Velvet lacking serious clarity and upper mid presence in comparison, while being smoother and smaller in body.
The treble is actually really neat and not what you expect of something with two dedicated tweeters. Instead it is well controlled with nice presence points at about 6 and 10kHz that give a little bit of sparkle but at the same time holds back from losing its head.
The soundstage seems really wide, not as big as the Velvet but it does have some obvious size although instrument separation and use of space, isn’t as good as it could be. In fact that goes for the entire earphone, they just aren’t that fast, they aren’t clean cut, they aren’t focussed. Instead they are bold and musical, with an easy tone and gentle edges. Even music such as Jake Bugg that I normally find sharp and feisty, seems controlled and pleasant and when you feed these the write music, the bass is oh so engaging and rhythmic. An earphone that isn’t flawed but doesn’t seem to shine in a technical stand point that one may expect at this price point, in fact, that’s my biggest struggling point when I can a/b with the DUNU DN-2000 and can make strong cases for both earphones vs. each other, where does that leave me when these are double the price.
A Price as Bold as the Sound
The ASG-2.5 have a lot to like, Aurisonics have really pushed and developed what people like from their original designs and made amends to the common complaints. They now have an ergonomic earphones that is so easy to listen too and will just let the hours flow by but at the same time leave your craving something that can reveal the subtle nuances just a bit better. I think if we could get a smaller price point but similar performance from Aurisonics, these could end up making a lot bigger an impression. That being said as they are they still have their audience and that’s them bass lovers, especially with the ability to crank open the port. That being said if you’re looking for great value, the DUNU is an easy alternative (while being more neutral) or something that is technically great then these just wont cut it.