When you pick up a shiny new iPod or some other portable media player, it usually comes bundled with a free set of headphones. These do the job, I suppose, but true audiophiles are far from satisfied with what these pack-in headphones can offer. The sound quality simply cannot be matched against a higher-end set of earphones.
General consensus would say that deejay-style cans are probably the best solution, but they’re not exactly the most portable things in the world. That’s why earphones have quickly risen in popularity, offering all sorts of sound isolation and terrific audio quality. Get ready to pay a premium, though, to get this kind of quality.
I had the chance to play with a set of Atrio Earphones from the good people at FutureSonics and I have to admit that these just may be the best in-ear audio solution I’ve experienced to date. Let’s have a look at what it’s got to offer.
Features and Specifications
When you’re paying a premium price for premium earphones, you’d expect to get some premium features. Thankfully, it looks like FutureSonics fully delivers on this front.
- TrueTimbre natural frequency response
- Multiple fit options included
- Future Sonics proprietary my5pro dynamic studio-grade drivers
- crossover-free architecture
- 100% armature-free technologies
- Frequency response: 18 Hz – 20,000 Hz
- Impedance: 32 ohm
- Sensitivity: 112 dB @ 30 Hz / 1 mW
- Noise reduction: 26 dB +/- ambient noise rejection
- Cable: 1.3 m quietcables II with reduced microphonics
There are a few things that I want to highlight from that list. The ambient noise reduction is a definite plus, as it helps to further block the outside world from invading your personal music experience. This is great for listening to the tunes, but it may not be as bright an idea for your safety while riding the subway. Just a small thing to keep in mind as you pump up the jam.
Also, the provided “quietcables” are actually quite valuable. I’ve experienced far too many cheap headphones where the cable seems to conduct any sort of physical contortion or contact, interrupting my music. I did not have this problem with the Atrio. The dynamic drivers are also quite impressive.
Comfortable Fit and Finish
The FutureSonics Atrio earphones come bundled with a bunch of little extras. The preinstalled rubber fittings on the earphones are definitely unique and add substantially to the ambient noise reduction. They come in a couple of different sizes, so they can be pretty darn comfortable.
Aside from the rubber tips, you also get four sets of these foam ends that can be used in their place. I found it odd that FutureSonics would opt for the beige color for these foam inserts, because it really takes away from the overall stylish appearance of these premium earphones. Replacing those beige inserts with black ones would have been much more appealing.
Rounding out the package are a handy carrying case and a little cleaning tool in case your nasty earwax gets in there and you can’t get it out.
This is a nice complete package, but if you want to be really hardcore with your music, you can invest in the SofterWear custom fit sleeves. You actually go to your ear health professional and get them to create a mold or profile of your ears, sending that information to FutureSonics. After that, you can place your order for the SofterWear sleeves and they will actually be custom-made to your exact specifications. That’s just crazy… and it comes at an extra $149.
The Aural Experience
Premium earphones are nothing without good sound quality, regardless of how much they invest in ambient noise isolation and custom-fit sleeves. The Atrio Earphones are quite impressive, thankfully, regardless of the type of music I was enjoying.
I tried listening to songs by everyone from Coldplay to Linkin Park, Frank Sinatra to Kanye West, and I was very happy with what I got. The bass was deep and rich, and the higher notes were crisp without being shrill. The low-end response was the most impressive feature for sure and there was minimal distortion even at higher volumes.
For the purpose of testing, I tried listening to music on both my Dell laptop and my Apple iPod nano. I was pretty happy with both platforms.
The premium earphone market is getting pretty crowded these days, especially since more and more people are getting dissatisfied with the relatively poor quality of free pack-in headphones. They’re willing to spend more than $10 or $20 for a cheap upgrade, because they know that you get what you pay for.
That said, the Atrio Earphones from FutureSonics are definitely closer to the higher end of the spectrum, because they carry a list price of $200. Toss in some custom SofterWear sleeves and you’re at a total bill of $350. Before tax. That’s much more costly than a nano and about the same price as an iPod touch. Even without the SofterWear sleeves, $200 for a set of earphones is definitely on the pricier end of things.
I think I’d be alright with a price closer to the $100 range, but it could be wishful thinking considering the quality offered by the Atrio. If you have the extra money, though, I think you’d be pretty pleased with what you get.