Will do everthing
The R2 Aten in short in impressive, the fit is nice, the cables are fantastic and the sound quality very good. It just lacks a small bit of micro details with all the filters except the green. The green filter fantastic but is kind of awkward, read on to find out why..
Matching with sources
Fit inside the ear
Value for money
There are a lot of brands who don’t pop out into the grand scene of the audiophile world but make some engaging and exciting earphones. IMR acoustics is one of them, their R1 Zenith was a best seller in its price range and was highly praised by both reviewers and consumers. It had tuning filter on the back to customize the sound effectively and the IMR R2 Aten is not different. The R2 Aten is more like a revision of the R1 with slightly better ergonomics and a bit more control over tuning options with tuning nozzles and filters.
In their words:-
“The R2 Aten is an exquisite open back in-ear monitor incorporating an all new bespoke IMR driver.”
The R2 Aten houses bespoke Aten driver which combines a neodymium motors with beryllium composite diaphragm and is aided by a high resolution piezoelectric ceramic driver. It comes in only metal grey color and retails for around 300 Euros with a 400 Euro MRP. In this ever growing market it faces tough competition from earphones like Moondrop blessings 2, TSMR 4, secret garden 3 and a lot more.
The production is limited to only 300 units but you still can get one from here.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX:-
The R2 aten comes with a lot of accessories out of the box, surprisingly it does not have a proper retail box. It comes with a large travel case which contains all the accessories and cables. I love the way it keeps the things organized. There are a few documentations, one with the nozzle’s color and its effect on sound can be handy. The earpieces are stuffed in the foam. There are 6 pairs of tips inside a transparent case. There are 6 pairs of filter and 5 pairs of nozzle screwed in couple of aluminum (will elaborate them in the sound section) holders. The best thing about the package is the cables. There are two, a 3.5mm cable and a 2.5mm balanced cable, that’s generous, hardly seen in earphones in this price range. The 6.5mm adapter, cable clip and leather cable ties rounds up the list of accessories.
ERGONOMICS AND BUILD:-
There are a lot of options in this price point and a lot of brands use semi custom type build but none of them have metal housing. The R2 is one of the rare earphones which uses full metal shell and the build quality is very good. The back plate is held in place with screws and feels very sturdy. Dropping it on the floor will not damage it from outside but it can be a different story inside. What stands out about the R2 Aten is its shiny rear vent which makes it an open back earphone. This feature is barely seen with earphones under $1000. There is barely any earphone which incorporates metal into semi custom type shells but brands do try to make them a bit curvy and contoured. R2 doesn’t have any type of ergonomical design but the best thing is it sticks to minimalistic design, nothing flashy.
At first glance the R2 doesn’t look much promising with its ergonomics. The back plate already looks quirky with its orange accent to the filter bracket and the notch to accommodate the screw also gives an impression that it might not be very comfortable inside the ear. In reality it really manages to surprise me with its level of comfort, it is not very ergonomical but nothing feels obstructive inside the ear. The biggest reason is the longer than usual nozzle depth, it really gets deep into the ear canal giving a very secure feel. The earpieces are not heavy and the lower than usual weight helps it stay in ear without falling out.
HOW IS THE CABLE:-
I am a huge sucker for good quality cables. Man, these IEMs with heavy price tags on them deserve an equally complimenting cable, both sound quality wise and aesthetically. A fantastic IEM with bad cable will not leave a very good impression. There are earphones priced at around $700 which ship with run-of-the-mill cables. To my surprise the R2 ships with two beautiful looking cables. The first one is a 3.5mm cable which can be used with most sources and a 2.5mm cable which brings a smile on faces of people who have balanced sources. The 6.5mm adapter gives the flexibility to use the 3.5mm cable with desktop DAC/AMPs.
The R2 Aten’s cables have dual core single crystal oxygen free copper inside them. There is a generous amount of rubber on the cable which kind of makes the cable a bit stiff, thankfully the braiding is not very tight. It is not the supplest cable but it doesn’t have much memory and doesn’t tangle easily. The cable splitter is minimal in size and the chin slider comes in handy. The cable guides are very supple and doesn’t have any stiffness to them, it is the last thing one needs to worry about.
HOW DOES THIS SOUNDS:-
The R2 aten with its dynamic and ceramic driver hybrid sounds very good. The open back design helps a lot with the stage size. Coming from BA based earphone that doesn’t have much heft to the lower end the R1 feels like a bass heavy earphone with most of the nozzle, the best thing is that one can change nozzles as per their preference. I had settled with the red nozzle initially but that too was bassy so I settled with purple/pink nozzle and filter. I don’t know how IMR is doing it but these nozzles do bring a lot of changes to the sound, subtle but perceptible.
The overall sound signature can vary from flat and slightly dry (balanced) to very juicy and warm (L shaped) depending on the filter and nozzle combo. Nevertheless the overall tonality and timber is very neutral and organic irrespective of the nozzle and filters used.
In their words:
“Utilising a high resolution piezo ceramic driver combined with an all new beryllium composite dynamic driver with larger uprated neodymium motors for a huge soundstage and precise instrument placement and with a FR from 10-50000Hz.”
I for a change will break the sound into filters specifically.
TECHNICALITIES AND MATCHING WITH SOURCES:-
With an impedance of 32ohm the R2 Aten is very easy to drive even out of weak sources and the amount of details doesn’t take a hit at all. It is one of those rare IEMs who don’t lose any micro details even when driven out of mobile devices. It can be driven equally efficiently from both Samsung A7 2016 and Shanling M6, it gets very loud with ease. Use any decent source and the R2 is happy to entertain. It takes the native qualities of the source and doesn’t bother much about anything else. If you pair it with less capable sources like Tempotec V1a it still does well. Better sources do bring out more out of it but even if you use top class sources the R2 Aten doesn’t respond accordingly, you just can’t get more and more out of it once you are past the good source mark, it will just inherit the tonality and stage of it, no significant gains in details or clarity.
One of the biggest USP of the brand IMR is their tuning filters and nozzles. The Filters have “acoustic effects”, in simpler words the filters affect the treble transparency and stage and the nozzles have bass effects. Nozzles come in a handful of colors. (highest bass first) Black, gold, red, pink/purple and green. The filter comes with an additional blue color. You can always mix match the nozzles with filters. I love the combination of golden filter with pink nozzle, it has the required amount of bass with very good clarity.
In their words the R2 Aten is:
“Fully customisable via the all new interchangeable acoustics nozzles and dampers to give you a multitude of settings for your perfect sound signature. These acoustic nozzles allow you to alter every aspect of the sound from the treble, midrange and bass.”
P.S. I will denote a pair of same color nozzle and filter as a set. (purple and pink are same)
Black and Gold sets:
These sets have least dynamic range and contrast.
The quantity and quality of bass varies a lot with nozzles. The bespoke Aten driver has a lot of grunt and slam when used with black and gold filters. The sub-bass has nearly bass head level of slam and body, it is heavy and wooly, moves good amount of air, more so with the black set. The mid bass has more linear gain with black filter where the golden one feels a bit sudden with rise of energy and body. The overall body is full and meaty, there is good amount of texture and details. The decay speed is on the adequate side with very good precipitation. It really gets in the league of the Shozy pola but the Pola has better details and a bit more sub bass presence. The upper bass is well behaved with all the sets. Coming from precision minded BA based earphones this really feels like a different kind of beast.
The mid range kind of takes the back seat. The transition phase is not exactly great, the energy is lacking and clarity is slightly missing, especially at the lower mid range. The overall signature is less V shaped and more L shaped. Instruments don’t have fantastic clarity or transparency. The body feels to be on the heavier side hence notes don’t have very good agility. The finishing on the notes is blunt and don’t have much bite or attack. Vocals are slightly on the thicker and heavier side, female vocals don’t have the required sharpness and male vocals have excess smoothness. Both Male and female vocals have nice texture and tonality but are not very accurate. Upper mids is not very defined and the micro details are blunt. Notes don’t have above average accuracy or precision.
Treble region doesn’t have much clarity and transparency even when the filters are supposed to have the best energy and clarity (not the gold). The spark and attack is missing. The extension is very good but instruments just have above average transparency and definition, everything above the upper mid range feels a bit veiled and blunt. The notes have thicker body and the air is not up to the mark. The energy and peaks on the graph is felt but thanks to their bluntness they do not make their presence felt.
Stage size of the open back IEM is always going to be bigger than anything else and even when the black and blue filters are supposed to have smaller stage it is considerably bigger than BA based earphones and a bit bigger than the DUNU DK-2001 too. The stage is sadly not very rounded. The bass region has more height than rest of the spectrum. The expansion though feels effortless, the treble region feels a bit less dense and dwells in the lower end for layering and separation. The vocals start at center of the head with expansion slightly out of head. Most of the instruments are placed out of the head with good sonicality and dynamics. The imaging is nice but the resolution is not the best.
If you are a bass lover and don’t like much of the treble bite, these sets are perfect. If you want to change the scene, you can try these nozzles with green and Blue filters which do have better treble clarity.
The best matching is Black nozzle with green filter.
This is more balanced set with better treble clarity. The overall amount of details, sonicality, transparency and clarity is improved. This set is a bit more mature and accurate from every aspect.
The bass is slightly less prominent but is not much behind the black and gold set, the sub-bass is equally rumbly with equally good extension. The difference is at the mid bass decay speed and notes body. Decay is faster and body is slightly less meaty and full, in other words, tighter. They all have similar texture and details but due to the faster decay speed it is less wooly. The mid range is a bit less in the V with slightly better transparency. The micro details have a bit more clarity and notes are less blunt. The transition from upper bass to lower mid is a bit more energetic. Vocals are slightly more accurate and havesimilar tonality and equally good texture. Notes have smaller foot print with a bit better agility. The energy and bite along with attack is more present. The upper mid range is more energetic and slightly shouty. The treble region feels more sparkly and energetic with better transparency. The extension is equally good. Notes are more accurate with better sharpness.
The stage is similarly impressive with marginally better bigger treble stage bringing a bit more roundness. It has better density and air between instruments.
And the problem with the Black and gold filters are kind of patched with the red set.
Pair the red nozzle with blue filter and you have the best balance of everything, nice bass with very good treble energy and clarity.
This set improves on the red set with better balance between bass and rest of the spectrum. Recommended set for sure. The lower region is less bloat and the wooliness is gone. The slam is gone, the rumble is not much (more than any BA driver when it comes to size). The decay is faster giving a better sense of accuracy and precision while not giving up on musicality. It has similar texture and notes have more definition. The mid range is balanced with very good transparency and clairty. Notes have nice decay and sharpness. Vocals are more accurate, slightly dry in comparison but the tonality and texture are retained. Female vocals are considerably more accurate compared to the Blue and golden sets. The whole mid range has better resolution and clarity, the micro details have very good transparency. Treble region too has a bit more energy and spark than the red set. The extension is equally good with better instrumental attack and clarity. The mid treble region might feel a bit elevated thanks to sharper notes (which were not much evident with black and golden filters).
The stage is even more rounded with equal height and width and a bit better depth. There is very good amount of air between instruments, layering and separation is improved and now it is better than the Fibae 3. The sonicality is improved with even better cue placement.
The pink set is already there where it is supposed to be, it already is fantastic, even better balance than the red and blue filter combo.
The Avener – castle in the snow feels a lot more alive and agile with this filter, the stage and imaging makes things outstanding.
Oh my my… I was expecting BA type sound and the green filter doesn’t disappoint there but the acoustic seal is not there, there is no pressure created by the drivers, it kind of feels awkward, if you can move past that the green filter literally brings out the most technical side of the R2 aten, it now turns into a precision and accuracy based IEM. With this the notes are drier and have a bit of hollow feel to them. The notes don’t have nice (thin) base but the body and finishing is not as thin.
The most affected part is the bass, it now is in the league of the ER-4 micro, dry, very fast, lean, highly detailed and insanely accurate. The notes vanish into thin air. The extension is there but the notes don’t have rumble or slam to them, the body is negligible but the mid bass hump keeps the lower region alive. Mid range now feels exceptionally clear transparent, the instruments have BA like precision and the huge stage size gives a sense of huge amount of air between instruments. You can close your eyes and can pin point the instruments without even paying attention. Vocals now lose some body but the texture and tonal accuracy is there. The treble now shows its real color, the transparency and clarity is marvelous, even comparable to earphone two three times the price of R2 Aten. It now gets in line with the big boys. The extension is fantastic as the energy and spark is even more evident.
The stage is now reversed, the lower region has least height with treble having a lot of depth and height. The stage now has the highest amount of projection outside the head. The vocals shift from the center of the head to outer side of the head. It gives a totally different perspective.
After the black and gold sets the green set really turns head over heel. It can qualify as the best filter for someone looking for sheer amount of clarity, details and accuracy but for the rest the green nozzle is a waste of effort. It feels awkward, the seal is missing, the imaging is drastically changed and bass can be labeled as missing.
Some owners might find this filter very odd but man, it is something, only if it has a bit more bass without losing the overall transparency and clarity it would have been the go to set.
Instead of a one on one comparison I think a mixed comparison feels more appropriate given the diversity of the R2 Aten.
Let’s start with the hard part. Are the black and gold sets good? Not really, they are wooly and lack essential amount of details and clarity. The bass is woolier and slower than the Shozy pola, the required amount of clarity is missing. Notes are thick and blunt. The red and purple filters are good and find a nice balance of most of the things, A-Bing these two filters is more than enough for most of the users. The Green filter is very good but kind of flawed for most.
What is the best set or combination to go with? The best set is Pink/purple, it has the best balance of everything. As per combos the red nozzle with pink and blue filter and pink nozzle with blue filter are some of the best combinations. There are a lot of possibilities but I like these combos.
This is how I find the filters stand against some good quality earphones.
|Earphone/color set||Details and resolution||Clarity and transparency||Layering and separation||Bass quantity/ quality||Treble quality||Stage size and quality|
|Black nozzle, Blue filter||7.8||7.8||8||9/7.2||8||8.7|
Why will you buy this? The huge stage size on its own is enough, but there are more tricks under R2 Aten’s belt.
Overall the R2 Aten is a mixed kind of earphone. It can give everything you can ask for thanks to its tuning diversity but not the best of everything at once(maybe the Pink filter, but Green has better notes sharpness and clarity). It does very good with red and purple filter sets and the combos of red filter with pink nozzle and red nozzle with blue filter but they are not excellent at anything but stage size. The most impressive part is left with the kind of awkward sounding green filter. I am impressed, really impressed, the sound is very engaging, musical and cohesive but is not very very detailed like the Avara AV3.
Should you go for the R2 Aten? Definitely, it has the stage which is rarely seen with earphones in this price range and the SQ is totally worth it. It does not have the best micro details and at times the notes lack penetration and attack but the stage makes up for this with a vast stage size.
I will not say you cannot go wrong with it, you can definitely go wrong with it, it is not a very straightforward earphone but the diversity alone (can’t forget the stage size) makes up for it, it can be bassy and analytical with just a simple swap of a set. You definitely can ask for more in every aspect (except stage size) but it already offers everything possible. The plate is full, you can strike a lot of combos but if the plate is simply not big enough (the amount of details) you can try the ETY killer Avara AV3.
The one word for the R2 aten is impressive, it has it all, only if it had a bit more micro details across the spectrum it would have been unbeatable.