I think by now I’ve established that I am a big fan of earphones; unlike the one-size-fits-most round earbuds which come with almost all digital music players, quality earphones will usually include a variety of tips so that the wearer can ensure the best fit. This is necessary because unlike earbuds which can precariously perch in the bowl of the wearer’s inner ear, earphones are inserted into the rim of the ear canal. So bearing this in mind, it makes sense that if the earphones’ tips are too large, the wearer’s ear canals will soon grow tender and sore, and if the earphones’ tips are too small, then the earphones won’t correctly block outside noise nor will they allow the audio content to sound as good as it should.
There are several companies that manufacture professional quality earphones, and today we will take a look at the latest by Future Sonics: the Atrio Series m5 Professional Earphones. I was loaned the solid black with a blue strip m5 version, which are touted as providing “TrueTimbre source reproduction with natural, deep bass response;” a “universal fit with multiple options;” they are “compatible with wired and wireless systems or personal media players;” and are called an “outstanding upgrade for any system.” During my one month of usage, I got the chance to decide if the m5s would deliver all they promised. Before I dive into how they performed, let’s do a quick unboxing…
Removing the printed box sleeve reveals a two sectioned tray which contains the Atrio series carrying case on one side, the m5 earphones and various other goodies on the other.
Removing all items from the box reveals that there are quite a few foam and rubber ear tips included so that the earphones will ultimately have the most custom fit possible, without going the extra step of having custom inserts made.
Side note: I’ll state for the record that the box was sealed when I opened it, so even though I have to send them back, I wasn’t subjected to someone else’s ear gunk. Of course, I can’t say the same for the next reviewer. Muahahaha! 😉 *
A quick run down of all the goodies in the package includes the m5 earphones; the Atrio series carrying case; two pair of the large ComfortFit Foam Sleeves, two pair of the small size ComfortFit Foam Sleeves; one pair each of the large, medium and small EarFills Silicone Sleeves; one loop earwax cleaning tool, and a product manual.
The 50″ long QuietCables, as they are called, have an adjustable slider with built in stop 12.5″ down to help keep the earphones in place and organized. I would later learn that while there was a minimal amount of sound channeled through the cables when they were being worn, for the most part they really did live up their name.
Each earphone measures approximately 1″ long x 1″ deep x 0.5″ wide, and its body is composed of plastic.
The Atrio earphones come with a small set of silicone tips installed, but they easily pull off to allow the fitting of any other included sleeve. For those who need a truly personalized fit, SofterWear Custom Fit Sleeves can be ordered directly from Future Sonics for $149.
Here is a closer look at the other included sleeves and the cleaning tool. I like that so many custom fit options were included in the “universal” package, and the ear cleaning tool will most likely prove necessary for anyone who wears their earphones all the time. Yeah, I know the thought of cleaning ear wax from your earphones is kind of icky, but think of it as an occasional necessary evil for clear sound.
Drivers: Future Sonics proprietary mg5pro dynamic
Frequency Response – 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz truetimbre response
Impedance – 32 ohm sensitivity 112 dB @ 30 Hz / 1 mW
Rejection – up to 26 dB ambient noise rejection (A.N.R.)
Cable – 1.3 m quietcables with reduced micro phonics
Connector – standard 3.5mm stereo mini-plug(gold)
So let’s talk about how the m5 earphones performed during my testing…
First of all, I thought that I would be considerate and only use the ear tips that came already installed on the earphones, leaving the accessory bags unopened. To my surprise, the installed tips fit perfectly. As with other earphones I have tried, insertion was key for getting the best sound. Mashing the earphones deep into the canal is not the objective nor is it necessary; slipping the tips just into the canal and then pulling them back a tad creates a seal which blocks peripheral noise and puts the sound in your ear and in your head.
Wearing earphones is a great way to shut out the rest of the world and tune into the music playing, and I found that wearing the Atrio m5s was a comfortable and pleasurable way to do it. Using the m5s, I found the bass response to be deeper and richer than I expected while listening to Maroon 5’s new album “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long”, which was a pleasant surprise. Adam Levine’s voice was as smoky as I imagine it might be when listening to him live, yet the instruments in the background were clear – each thump of the bass drum perceptible, the clapping in the background of “If I Never See Your Face Again”, the individual strums of the bass on “Won’t Go Home Without You”, the keystrokes of the piano on “Better That We Break”, etc. Overall, the m5s produce a pretty amazing sound sensation. If you have the CD “Songs About Jane”, listen to the opening sequence of “Secret” or “Through With You” at about half your digital music player’s top volume; if that doesn’t sell you on these earphones then nothing will. You’ll find that it isn’t necessary to turn music as loud to enjoy the full range of sound, and in the end – that can only be a very good thing for your ears.
And no, I don’t find it ironic at all that I am on a Maroon 5 kick and these earphones are called m5s. 😉
For those that don’t like wrapping their earphones’ cable around the player for storage, the included carrying case will be quite welcome. Measuring approximately 4.75″ tall x 3″ wide x 1″ deep, the case was just 0.5″ too short to fit both my Zune and the earphones. Bummer. 😉
A sewn in D-ring and a Velcro overlay that will fit up to a 1.5″ belt provide two different ways for carrying the case for those that aren’t just chunking it into a larger gear bag.
The Future Sonics Atrio m5s are an impressive set of earphones. I found them to be some of the most comfortable I have ever tried, and the sound produced was distinctly impressive. Let’s face it, $200 is a lot to plunk down on a set of earphones. But if the sound coming out of your player is really important to you, then making this particular sacrifice will be easily justified.
The Future Sonics Atrio Series m5 Professional Earphones are available directly from the manufacturer.
What I Like: Incredible clarity, excellent bass, lovely sound; multiple tips for a comfortable fit; ability to get custom ear tips made for those that need a perfect fit
What Needs Improvement: It would be great if they were less expensive, but they sound so good the price is forgivable
*Update: After this review was posted, I was told I could keep these earphones. As I told my contact when the offer was made, “part of me is tempted to tell you that we knew from the beginning that you wanted me to pay for them if I wanted to keep them, which is why I planned on sending them back after the review. But the other part of me is going to tell you thank you, because I really do like them.” So thank you Dan & Future Sonics. I’ll continue to enjoy them. 🙂 It was also pretty cool that Dan told me Maroon 5 are Future Sonics’ clients. Why am I not surprsied?