It's a Headphones Thing

A Headphones Reviews Blog

[REVIEW] Aurisonics ASG-1 Rev. 1.3

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Aurisonics is an in-ear-monitors and hearing protection manufacturer based in “Music City” Nashville. The company was founded in 2011 by Dale Lott, an experienced mastering engineer & audio equipment expert, with a goal to make products that “would help musicians to hear the music the way that it is intended to be heard”. Aurisonics’ first IEM model was the AS-1, a single dynamic driver utilizing custom-fit in ear monitor, handmade in the USA (like all of the company’s products) and designed to be used by touring musicians. Dale also made a universal generic-fitting version so that potential buyers could try it before making a decision to purchase it. Later, because of the very positive feedback that it got, this generic-fitting version was added to the Aurisonics catalog as the ASG-1. After a few (quite different sounding) revisions Aurisonics started selling the ASG-1 Rev. 1.3 (which will be the last revision of the ASG-1) a few months ago. The changes from the earlier revisions are very big, and they include a new shell design, a new in-house made dynamic driver and even more.

Technical Specifications:

Impedance: 32 Ω +/- 10% @ 1 kHz

Sensitivity: 121 dB @ 1mW

Frequency Response: 8 Hz – 25 kHz

Cable Length: 1.2 Meters

Driver: 15mm Dynamic Driver

Packaging

The included carrying case serves as the packaging.

Accessories

The ASG-1 Rev. 1.3 comes with a decent amount of accessories. The accessories were changed from the older revisions in a good way in my opinion. The included accessories are:

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Hard-Shell Carrying-Case– The provided case seems to be similar to OtterBox’s “1000 Series” case that came along with the older revisions of the ASG-1. Compared to the old OtterBox case, the new one is a bit smaller and it is easier a lot easier to open it too; it was a bit hard to open the older case, and I guess that this was the main reason that made Aurisonics to change the case. You would also be happy to know that the new case seems to provide the same level of protection that was provided by the older case.

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Five pairs of Ear-Tips- Aurisonics includes five pairs of ear-tips together with the Rev. 1.3, all of which seem to be of a high quality. I had the ASG-1 Rev. 1.1 in the past and I must say that the new tips are a huge upgrade, because the tips that came with the Rev. 1.1 were only three pairs and of a worse quality too. With the Rev. 1.3 we get three pairs of single-flanges (Small/Medium/Large) and two pairs of bi-flanges, one of which is transparent-gray colored and Large in size, while the other one is black colored and medium in size.

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Cleaning Tool – this is the standard cleaning tool which has a metal loop in one of its sides and a small brush in its other side.

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The included accessories are nice and they seem to tick all of the boxes. If I could add anything to them, I would have included also a smaller case or a pouch, and that is because the included case doesn’t fit inside any of my pockets – it is more of case to put inside of your bag.

Building Quality & Design

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Starting with the design, the ASG-1 is basically a custom-fit IEM turned into a universal fitting one; therefore, it looks a lot like a CIEM, especially when worn. Moving on, the building-quality is seriously one of the best that you could find in a universal IEM. The solid and tough feeling shells are made from a somewhat white and semi-transparent kind of plastic using a 3D-printer to produce their two parts (one of them is the faceplate that has the company’s logo on it), which are tightly-held together by a couple of silver-colored screws.

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The short nozzles that are strongly glued into their place have a few tiny venting-holes around them, and the sound-tubes have a small silver-mesh inside them in order to protect the drivers from dirt. Like most of the “CIEM turned universal” IEMs, also the ASG-1 utilizes a removable cable, which connects into a recessed connection-point in the IEMs’ side.

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The stock cable is the standard silver-colored one that comes with most of the CIEMs. It has a short memory-wire portion and a large 3.5mm plug which would not fit inside all of the phones/players cases due to its size, although I have heard that Aurisonics might be moving soon to a new cable, which will have a smaller and better-fitting jack.

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One thing worth mentioning about the cable is that it oxidizes after a few months and becomes slightly green-colored; that is a normal thing with this kind of cables, so do not worry if it happens to your cable.  Overall, the building quality is really great.

Comfort & Ergonomics

The older revisions of the ASG-1 had a quite large bump on their housings in the Concha area. Some people felt that it provided better fit, while many others (including myself( found it to cause discomfort after even a few minutes of wearing the IEMs. Aurisonics was well aware of the comfort problems that some of the users have experienced, so they have created a new housing which has most of that bump shaved-down, a vastly different nozzle angle and a smaller size too, so it could fit almost any ear comfortably.

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I can confirm that the new shell has already proven itself to be quite a bit more comfortable than the older one, and I can wear now wear the ASG-1 for a few hours long listening-session before having to take them off in order to let my ears rest for a few minutes. The included ear-tips are good enough comfort-wise, and out of them I have preferred the black bi-flanges. If you don’t like the included tips, I will recommend using Comply’s foam tips (the 400 size fits the ASG-1, I recommend the TS series because they alter the sound less than their other tips), or Sony’s great Hybrid tips, which fit nicely on the nozzles with a bit of stretching. The insertion depth is deep, but shallow insertion works too if you will find the right tips. These IEMs sit in your ears similarly to CIEMs, in a way that they are worn with the cable up and that they cover most of the outer ears; because of that, the IEMs tend not to move and they stay “fixed” in the user’s ears quite well. The memory-wire portion which is on the cable that comes with the ASG-1 (and comes with most of the CIEMs as well) is quite stiff and can sometimes be annoying. It also seems that the tips get stuck in the ears more often than with other IEMs (at least in my case), which is quite annoying.

Isolation & Microphonics

The ASG-1’s provides an isolation level very close to that of acrylic CIEMs with all of the included ear-tips.  That can be explained by its housing design and fit in the ears, which is very CIEM-like, combined with the mid-deep to quite-deep insertion depth of the IEM’s nozzles into the ears. Microphonics are mostly eliminated because of the over the ear wearing method that these IEMs are designed to be worn in.

Sound Quality

The ASG-1 Rev. 1.3 was given over 250 hours of burn-in before the beginning of the critical-listening period. I’ve detected a noticeable improvement in the clarity over all of the frequencies and the bass also became tighter and punchier after the burn-in. The gear that I have used during the reviewing process includes my 4th Generation iPod Touch, which is loaded with mostly iTunes Store M4A files and 320 KBPS file. For some of the time I’ve listened to the ASG-1 Rev. 1.3 directly out of my iPod, while I’ve also tested it with amplification, provided by Firestone Audio’s Fireye HD & HA amplifiers, connected to the iPod’s dock input via a generic LOD to 3.5mm adapter.

The ASG-1’s huge 15mm sized dynamic-driver produces a warm, smooth and dark sound-signature. The driver that was used for the 3rd revision of the ASG-1 is now made “in-house” by Aursionics themselves, and it brings a quite large improvement over the driver of the earlier revisions, both tuning and quality-wise.

Bass- The ASG-1’s bass is what I call “fun” sounding. It is present in a good amount, it is quite punchy, it has a powerful impact and it is well extended. The solid and full-bodied bass feels natural and real. There is no bleeding of the lows into the midrange and it they are actually quite well controlled and accurate. Before the burn-in I felt that the bass was slightly lacking in clarity and cleanness, but it seems that the burn-in period has fixed this – after it the bass became a lot cleaner and the clarity has improved too.

Midrange- the rev. 1.3 produces a quite smooth, warm and sweet sounding midrange, which feels very natural and is slightly forward in its placement (nothing near as forward as the rev. 1.1’s midrange). These IEMs were made with live-performing singer in mind, and it can be heard in the vocals, which are lush, powerful, energetic, clean and clear. In addition, the vocals are also well-bodied, having the right weight to them. On the other hand, I feel that the detailing of them could have been a little bit better, as some details are “smoothened-out” due to the smooth signature.

Treble- I was disappointed with 1.3’s highs, which lack in amount, presence, airiness and also roll-off quite early with a not good enough extension to the higher frequencies. This might be one of the most laid-back sounding trebles that I have ever heard. According to Dale of Aurisonics, this kind of tuning was done so that these IEMs would not cause fatigue and hurt the ears of the musicians using them as monitors during their performances. Setting my iPod’s EQ on the “Treble Addition” mode helped a bit, but still the treble was not present enough. Detailing isn’t the best here too, while the clarity and cleanness are both quite decent actually.

Sound-Staging and Instrument Separation – The sound-stage is quite large and it has an impressive width to it compared to other similarly priced IEMs. Instruments separation is a bit above average and I could see anyone happy and content with it.

Final Conclusions

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First I would like to say the 3rd revision of the ASG-1 is far better in probably most if not all of the categories than the 1st revision ASG-1 that I had in my possession in the past. However, sound-wise, it has a few flaws, which the most noticeable out them are the lack of treble and the mediocre detailing. Having these two things improved would make this IEM a lot better. On the hand, the bass is very nice and it gives you a special kind of feeling when hearing it, it just feels so natural and real. Another good thing sound-wise is that the sound-signature is non-fatiguing (due to the rolled of treble and to the sound’s smoothness), so you can listen to these for many hours straight without even getting tired of them. Apart from the sound, we also have here excellent isolation, great comfort and sturdy building-quality.

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