In-ears are the way to go as far as I’m concerned, but there’s still a wide range of quality and styles and lots of companies are getting in on the game. Auvio is a brand I wasn’t aware of, but their Armature headphones, at $80, are an attempt to get a little of that mid-range market. Do they succeed? Partially.
The headphones are a bit anonymous-looking. A little chubby, too, but very solid-feeling. I always felt like I was going to break my Klipschs — not so with these Auvios. They’re unmarked with left or right, but they’re also asymmetrical in a way that lets you know which goes in what ear. I prefer this to the kind where they have to label it, personally.
There are a variety of tips for the headphones, as is becoming standard these days. Small, medium and large black silicone tips provide the standard seal, but one thing Auvio has on the competition is the inclusion of Conform microfoam tips, the kind of material used in earplugs you might wear to a concert or in a shop. I found that these offered superior sound insulation, but at a cost: once I got the foam tips on (no easy task for some reason), I found they would not come off. I ended up tearing off a large piece of the smallest foam tips and eventually managed to get them off, but I’m not going to try that with the medium-size ones, which fit my ear better. I think they’re the best option of the six available, but that doesn’t mean I don’t ever ever want to take them off to clean them or anything.
Audio quality is a very subjective matter, so of course take everything with a grain of salt, but I didn’t particularly like the way these sounded. They certainly didn’t sound bad, but there were two effects going on that I could identify: first, I felt like there is a sort of empty area of sound right in the middle of my head, as if things could be right channel or left channel but not be centered. This changed somewhat based on the tips I used, but it was always present. Second, and more of an issue to me, there was a sort of mid-level boost that tended to drown out the other sound. It made it sound great when the primary sound is in that range, but I felt like it added a sort of mid-level “halo” to all the other sounds, which really subtracted from the clarity in the high end.
On the positive side, they come with a great case, almost as good as the one that came with Klipsch’s X5s. Roomy but not bulky, a little case like this is a great addition to any pair of headphones, and protects the silicone tips from being covered in pocket lint.
These Auvios aren’t bad headphones, but they have serious competition at the $80 level, notably Klipsch’s S4, which shares the asymmetrical design but has, I feel, more balanced sound. I look forward to more stuff from Auvio, though; although these headphones didn’t hit my auditory sweet spot, the case and Conform foam earpieces do suggest a company that knows what it’s doing.