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IO Audio Volare: New Dawn

Disclaimer: I would like to formally thank Cloris from Shenzhen Audio for providing us with a unit in exchange for an impartial and honest review. On behalf of the team at the Headphone List, we thank Cloris for her generosity and trust in THL.

TLDR:

The Volare celebrates a bright future for the fledgling IO Audio label. The entire end-to-end experience has been nothing short of excellent, from unboxing to listening.

While the Volare’s base sonic signature doesn’t reinvent the wheel, the Volare remarkable technical performance and grandiloquent presentation smash the $599 price ceiling.

Pros:

+ Premium unboxing experience drawing cues from the Sony MDR-Z1R: an IEM multiple in terms of price.

+ Gorgeous ‘aventurine’ style faceplate, with cloisonne-like dimensionality and topographical depth.

+ Ultra flexible 8-braid cable with swappable terminations (3.5mm, 2.5mm & 4.4mm) for added convenience.

+ Grandoise interpretation of the Harman-response trend, with heightened resolving speeds, rendering and analytical clarity in the midrange and bass.

+ Excellent imaging amidst crowded and complex stages, with above-average lateral headroom.

Cons:

– Upper-treble could use more sparkle and less tapering for a more exciting flourish and brilliance.

– Bass while agile and deft, would benefit from more textural definition and intrinsic detailing.

Introduction

IO Audio is the brainchild of Shenzhen Audio, a reputable distributor amongst the monopolistic competition that is the ‘Big 3’ (Shenzhen Audio, Hifigo, Linsoul). As per its paternal lineage, 1/O Audio is a fresh brand emerging from Shenzhen, China’s techno-futuristic capital.

Targeting the upper rungs of the Chi-Fi demographic, IO Audio’s target market lies in the affordable luxury bracket, ranging from $599 to $1000. In the audiophile hobby, there is a growing abundance of high-quality information readily accessible to pro-consumers and audio enthusiasts.

For better or for worse, audiophile tastes’ are rapidly evolving, as are their expectations; placating them is no longer an effortless feat.

The IO Audio Volare is their physical attempt to acknowledge the eclectic tastes and astute eyes of audiophiles. Every touchpoint, from Volare’s physical package to its technical specifications and performance, is conceived wholly to address their needs, wants and growing expectations.

Price at $599, the IO Audio Volare is neither too expensive to be categorised as ‘summit-fi’, nor too cheap to be classified as ‘budget’. This is a problematic and challenging price bracket to penetrate. The lingering question is: “How will IO Audio differentiate itself in a congested and claustrophobic arena of emergent brands with a similar mission?”

This review analyses and examines the IO Audio Volare’s value proposition through an objective lens. The IO Audio Volare is now available to order on Shenzhen Audio’s official website or on Amazon.com.

Technology

Tripartite (Tribrid) driver architecture

Credit: Shenzhen Audio

The IO Audio embeds a tribrid driver architecture under its hood. To be exact: 1x 8mm Customized Dynamic Driver+ 4x Customized Full Range Balanced Driver+ 4x Imported Denmark SONIC EST Driver. From a price point of view, these electronic components don’t come cheap.

Not to be undone by its mature counterparts in the market, the 8mm customized dynamic driver is fabricated from a composite wood dome with a rubber surround, reminiscent of JVC’s HA-series of speciality dynamic driver IEMs.

The entire frequency band is segmented and partitioned between the drivers using a 4-way electric and 3-way passive crossover structure. However, IO Audio has successfully mitigated the over-reliance on traditional active crossovers by embedding high-performing resistors and PCBs. In practice, this would translate into an improvement in audible performance.

This tripartite topology is not necessarily new, but traditionally, the quality of these components would indicate a more exorbitant price tag. Going off purely from Volare’s technical specifications, $599 is a very competitive ask that will generate ferocious speculation. But at the end of the day, sound is king.

Unboxing

Generally, I don’t spend too much of my energy focusing on the ‘unboxing’ section of each review, but the IO Audio Volare’s outrageously extravagant package is impossible to avoid. IO Audio was generous enough to lavish us with an exorbitant jewellery-style drawer box.

Drawing styling cues from the venerable Sony MDR Z1R, different accessories are situated in different drawers for ease-of-accessibility. The whole package from top to bottom, feels like its own eco-system.

The IO Audio Volare comes with the following accessories:

  • VOLARE * 1
  • Earphone Cable * 1
  • 3.5mm Plug * 1
  • 4.4mm Plug * 1
  • 2.5mm Plug * 1
  • 3.5mm to 6.35mm Adapter * 1
  • Storage Case * 1
  • Ear-tips (S, M, L) * 15 pairs
  • Cleaning Cloth * 1
  • VIP Card * 1
  • User Manual * 1
  • Certificate * 1

The included leather case is arguably, the best quality carrying case I have had the privilege of handling and using. The calf-leather outer shell is smooth, even and free from visual or physical blemishes. The interior is extra-padded for enhanced fall protection and scratch presentation.

On top of that, the cardboard sleeve that the Volare comes shipped with features a clear print of the Volare’s frequency response curve, alongside the measurement rigs used to substantiate or verify their internal findings. Consumers or listeners appreciate openness and transparency from corporations. This extra little inclusion solidifies IO Audio’s respect for its customers.

For $599, IO Audio Volare doesn’t miss in the ‘wow’ factor department.

Design

The IO Audio Volare bears the prerequisite 3-D printed medical-grade resin shells as is with the prevalence of bespoke and artisanal IEMs. The Volour’s colourway comprises a speckled grey-and-silver mix, with a magma-like visual texture. The real star of the show here is the exquisite faceplate.

The Volare’s faceplate design consists of an intricate wire pattern reminiscent of French/Chinese filigree or Closionne’, with a wire-like silhouette emulating the appearance of topographical lines raised against the surface it sits on. This stylised design accentuates visual depth and dimensionality against a flat plain. Beneficially, this enhances the Volare’s premium look and feel.

Physically, there are no physical blemishes, sharp contours or protrusions across the chassis. Lacquering work is excellent all-around, with no discernable physical seams or gaps running alongside the faceplate and shell.

According to Volare’s accompanying marketing copy, HeyGears, of Moondrop fame, is the brains behind its scaled mass production. This fruitful collaboration explains the impeccable finishing and consistency.

Comfort and Ergonomics

The Volare’s hypoallergenic resin shell is featherlight, with a mid-length spout for a snug seal. The Volare’s chassis is fairly large, but it has never impacted its ability to seal in my ear canals. To keep it short, fit and finish are exceptional on the Volare.

Intriguingly, there is a pinhole-sized vent situated next to the 2-pin recipient ends of each shell. Vents are an essential evil to displace the pressure built from the dynamic driver within the chamber. In day-to-day usage in fairly crowded environments, the existence of the aforementioned vents does not significantly impact the Volare capacity to isolate traffic noise or human speech. However, extraneous wind noise can be a prevalent issue causing audible distortion and annoying hiss.

Cable Quality

The IO Audio Volare comes shipped with a stock 8-braid 6n OFC silver-plated cable with a flexible, hypoallergenic ABS sheathing modified with aramid cores for tensile strength and improved durability.

Thankfully, its on-paper specifications are as impressive as how the Volare’s cables feel and operate in the wild. Their stock cables have a satisfying physicality and feel, with hand-braiding patterning and an ultra-flexible and supple ABS sheath.

Historically, rubber jacketing tends to be hit-or-miss, with poorer examples of it having a sticky exterior that attracts dust and grime. This doesn’t seem to be the case on the Volare.

The cables don’t tend to kink or retain physical memory, which allows for the standard ‘3-finger coil and stow away’ method without unspooling on its own. The mirror-polished, PVD-black hardware on the chin-slider and termination end complements the sleek & svelte all-black aesthetic the Volare is (obviously) going for.

There is a memory wire on the wearable ends of each connector. Thankfully, it doesn’t result in unwanted discomfort.

Lastly, the Volour also includes swappable terminations in 3.5mm unbalanced. 2.5mm balanced and 4.4mm balanced for the discerning audiophile. On each jack, there is a raised notch that needs to align with the gap on the termination end of the cable. Once you hear the pre-requisite click, the threaded collar (turned clockwise) secures the plug-of-choice to the cable.

If I had to be pedantic, the gilded and golden accents on the swappable terminations and the mirror-polished accented hardware would belie the space-age and future-forward styling of the Volare. Instead, silver flourishes and a sanitized finish add discrete and distinct finishing touches to a close-to-coherent design.

Turn to the next page for Sound

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Kevin Goh

Kevin Goh

Raised in Southeast Asia’s largest portable-audio market, Kevin’s interest in high-end audio has grown alongside it as the industry flourishes. His pursuit of “perfect sound” began in the heydays of Jaben in Singapore at the age of just 10 years old. Kevin believes that we live in a golden age of readily accessible, quality audio.

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