We’ve tested a lot of earbuds over the past few years and invariably find ourselves gravitating toward products at the very high end of that market—we’re talking buds that’ll set you back more than the most expensive iPod. At $200, Future Sonics’s Atrio m8 earbuds certainly aren’t cheap—but they’re competitive with some products that cost twice as much.
The first thing you notice when you stick the m8s in your ears and hit play is the bass response. We immediately pulled out these earbuds and did a double take to see how they could pump out so much low end. Exceptional bass is one of the attributes we’ve always dug about Shure’s $400 SE530 buds, but they don’t deliver nearly the sonic boom that the m8s produce.
To be fair to Shure, the SE530s deliver more frequency response at the high end of the spectrum, a fact we attribute to the three separate micro drivers in those buds, versus the single driver in the m8s. The bigger the driver, the easier it is to produce low end. A big driver also sacrifices highs, but Future Sonics has achieved a remarkable balance in its design.
Hold the m8s next to the SE530s and you can see where Future Sonics invested most of its manufacturing budget: the drivers. The m8s fit just as snugly and comfortably in our ears, and they were at least as effective at blocking outside noise, but they just don’t look as elegant as Shure’s product.
We listened to a wide variety of tunes encoded in both WAV and FLAC on Cowon’s iAudio7 digital media player (look for our review at www.maximumpc.com). We dug how the m8s were able to deliver each of the musician’s contributions on Betty Davis’s “Git in There” (from They Say I’m Different ). Davis’s predatorily nasty growl is the obvious focal point of this song, and it sounded fabulously seductive on the m8s, but these buds also did full justice to the backup band’s funky drum, guitar, keyboard, and bass work, too. These are some sweet buds.
Big bass that doesn't drown the mids and highs. Fantastic sound.