Future Sonics Atrio M8 (v1) MG5
Reviewed Jul 2010
Details: Bass-heavy universal IEM from the pioneer of dynamic customs, Future Sonics
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: $199.99)
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 32 Ω | Sens: 112 dB | Freq: 18-20k Hz | Cable: 4.3’ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 2.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock biflanges, Shure Olives
Wear Style: Over-the-ear
Accessories (4.5/5) – Bi-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), porous foam tips (4 sets), cleaning tool, and zippered carrying case
Build Quality (4/5) – The teardrop housings are made of plastic with molded rubber strain reliefs and an inch of memory wire tacked on. The plastic-sheathed cord is light and flexible but has a bit of memory character and can be tough to straighten out. Though the cable is plenty long, the y-split is slightly higher up than usual, which may be inconvenient for some
Isolation (3.5/5) – Excellent with any of the stock tips and outstanding or Shure Olives
Microphonics (4.5/5) – Extremely low
Comfort (4/5) – The fit of the Atrios reminds me of the Phonak PFEs. When worn properly, the housings don’t touch the wearer’s ear at all. However, with the stock bi-flange tips, insertion depth is quite great and sleeping in them is not as pleasant as it could be due to the sharp front edges of the shells as well as the intrusive fit. Getting a stable seal may also require a bit of fidgeting due to the memory wire
Sound (8/10) – As expected, the bass is the dominant aspect of the sound signature of the M8. What is surprising is just how technically competent the low end is. The bass is extremely extended, dropping below 30Hz without significant roll-off and audible well into the low 20Hz range. With the exception of the Hippo VB, the Atrios may have the flattest sub-bass of all the bass-heavy earphones I’ve tried. But it’s not just the excellent extension that gives the Atrios their reputation – the bass is detailed and impeccably textured. The dynamic drivers found in the Atrios can move quite a lot of air and, while the impact isn’t quite as precise as bass produced by BA-based earphones, the Atrios exercise impressive control over their low end. The bass is neither muddy nor bloated and can be an incredibly satisfying underlying element on bass-light tracks. On tracks with dominant basslines, however, the low end of the Atrios can be intense and perhaps even a bit overpowering if your personal preferences lean towards more analytical sound as mine do.
Recessed slightly in comparison to the low end, the midrange is clear and detailed. The clarity lags slightly behind the Sennheiser IE8, Hippo VB, and most armature-based earphones in the price range but still manages to impress for an earphone balanced the way the Atrio is. The mids are smooth, surprisingly uncolored and natural-sounding, and blended well with the bass and treble. Stringed instruments sound especially crisp and pleasant with the Atrios but vocals have good presence as well. The treble is just as smooth and relaxed as the midrange and boasts decent extension with silicone tips and a slight bit more roll-off with foamies. The top end is quite natural and, though fine detail is not as forthcoming as with some of the more analytical earphones, the edginess present in the treble of earphones such as the Hippo VB and Panasonic HJE900 is nonexistent with the Atrios.
The overall tone of the Atrios is quite dark, especially when using foam tips, but the presentation is quite monitor-like in nature. Soundstaging is good for an IEM but they won’t keep up with a Sennheiser IE8 or Phiaton PS200. Compared to the IE8, the Atrios have noticeably poorer separation and are a bit more tiring as a result. Truth be told, the Atrios sound like an IEM version of the popular M-Audio Q40 monitors – both are quite flat and uncolored aside from the hugely boosted bass, matching also in the little details such as the dark tone and fairly spacious and three-dimensional soundstage. As proper monitors should be, the Atrios are fairly revealing and 128kbps mp3s are a no-no with them. Lower listening volumes are also not ideal for extracting all of the detail the dynamic drivers of the M8s can produce.
Value (7/10) – The Atrios were widely regarded as the best bass-lover earphones in their price bracket when they were first introduced back in 2007. Aside from a minimal revision to the construction and specsheet, the Atrios have changed little over time in a rapidly evolving market but still remain competitive today. The secure fit, high isolation, and low microphonics make them very convenient everyday earphones and the rich, smooth, bass-heavy sound is sure to find many fans. If not for the similarly-capable but far cheaper Hippo VB, the Future Sonics Atrio would be a best buy for lovers of the deepest sort of bass on a budget. The Atrio still beats the VB easily on the usability front but is undercut heavily in price. However, bass lovers in search of a great earphone for all-around or active use not willing to shell out $400 for a Sennheiser IE8 will still find a great match with the Atrios. Those who care about value over all else and don’t mind the more aggressive nature of the Hippos’ treble may do well to check out the VB.
Pros: Comfortable, well-isolating, low microphonics, extremely powerful but well-controlled bass, clean midrange and treble
Cons: Plasticky build, not very pretty, rather dark in tone