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Audio Genetic AIR Review – Brilliance in Copper

Pros –

Terrific construction, Revealing sound, Excellent Separation

Cons –

Quite thick and stiff, Over-bright with brighter IEMs

Verdict –

The AIR best suits those looking for a sturdy cable with a more controlled low-end and brighter high-end.


Introduction –

Audio Genetic is a new audio manufacturer situated in Hong Kong. They recently made a bold entrance into the international market with their very well-received AG2; a 2-driver in-ear monitor with a very detailed, balanced sound. However, before their foray into in-ears, Audio Genetic’s speciality was custom cables. Made mostly for their local market, they offered a wide range of models with diverse internals and bespoke designs.

The AIR is one of their more affordable models, a pure copper cable with an innovative jacket. It retails for around $220 USD which is a little higher than competing models. However, in return (and as much as I hate to generalise), the AIR provides a style of sound usually found on more expensive silver cables, making it quite an interesting proposition. You can read about and purchase the AIR here.

 

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Audio Genetic very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the AIR for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the cable free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

Design –

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The AIR has a very unique construction and one that doesn’t fail to impress. At its most basic level, the cable uses high-purity OCC copper conductors in a 4-wire braid. What intrigues is the AIR’s jacket, one of the first of its kind. Of note, the braided cable is sheathed within an air-filled PVC that serves to eliminate EMI much like high-end speaker cables from manufacturers such as Audioquest. It’s also said to reduce microphonic noise. While I can’t comment on the cable’s EMI resistance, I certainly didn’t find the AIR to be overly microphonics during portable use

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Though the cable is a modest 26AWG, its air filled jacket buffs it up to a thickness similar to Effect Audio’s 22 Gauge plus cables. That said, as it’s fairly light, it doesn’t tug during daily use. The finish and design of the AIR are also fabulous; with metal connectors all around and a custom aluminium Audio Genetic Y-split. The braid is consistent and the jacket uniform. Audio Genetic make use of heat shrink strain relief on the jack and pre-moulded ear guides on the IEM connectors (2-pin in my configuration). They were perfectly shaped for my ears, providing a more comfortable experience than memory wire.

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The AIR isn’t a supple cable and it’s stiffer than units from Effect Audio, PWAudio and the newly refreshed Plussound lineup. This is understandable, and something that’s likely exclusive to the AIR given its unorthodox construction. It also doesn’t have much memory, nor does its stiffness produce excess microphonic noise. Furthermore, it has a very smooth texture and resists tangles incredibly well and it feels built to last, remaining continuous through its y-split with strain relief at all terminations.

 

Sound –

There’s a few rule of thumb sayings floating around amongst cable swappers; that copper is warmer and silver is brighter. However, from my experience, this isn’t always the case and, in my experience, a cable shouldn’t be so explicitly characterised by its construction. The AIR exemplifies this notion, for though it’s a pure copper cable, it carries a brighter sound. I thought it most apt to provide analysis with reference to Audio Genetics own AG2 though I will detail further pairings below.

 

Bass –

The AIR doesn’t emphasize bass, rather it enhances its qualities and increases transparency. Even when listening through the BA AG2, the AIR provided appreciably improved bass extension which, combined with improved tightness, delivered a more concise impact at the very bottom. The AIR very slightly attenuates mid-bass, producing very neutrally sized notes. This enhances bass separation, contributing to the AIR’s cleanliness. Furthermore, the AIR improves bass control, with more detailed notes and it enhances speed through slightly shorter decay. All of these qualities culminate to heighten separation, creating a far more composed and defined presentation. Though it doesn’t shock with a natural timbre, the AIR is has a very clean bass presentation with especially pleasing PRAT.

 

Mids –

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Much like its low-end, the AIR has a more transparent midrange achieved through greater bass/midrange separation. Of note, the AIR has a slightly attenuated upper-bass combined with a slightly bolstered lower-midrange. Above, the AIR has a fairly linear centre midrange paired with a slightly darker upper-midrange and brighter treble. As such, it’s quite neutrally bodied, slightly more articulated and noticeably less congested. This is especially noticeable with male vocals that sound more natural and refined with more accurate density. Upper-mids reflect similar changes but to a lesser degree; with slight attenuation producing smooth, naturally bodied female vocals despite its treble elevation. As such, the AIR is both more natural and more resolving in its presentation, delivering a pleasing tone and more accurate body.

 

Highs –

The AIR doesn’t greatly alter high-frequency tuning but brings highs slightly more forward on a whole. It’s aggressively detailed, though also nicely linear, delivering greater retrieval on top. Middle-treble is slightly emphasized, heightening air and creating a brighter background. The AIR is well-extended though it doesn’t astound with its resolution and liquidity quite like Effect Audio’s midrange cables. Still, it’s appreciably more resolving than any stock unit. As a result of its enhanced lower-treble linearity, instruments are considerably more textured with greater micro-detail. Decay remains accurate and sibilance is actually reduced as the AIR functions to smooth peaks. The AIR’s high-frequency forward presentation is both resolving and revealing which will be sure to please detail lovers. It does somewhat alter instrument placement, but each note is more wholly resolved.

 

Soundstage –

On account of the AIR’s notably enhanced air and improved extension, it delivers a more spacious stage than most. This is especially noticeable with regards to width that is granted a more natural expansion. The AIR’s sense of space is heightened by much-improved separation achieved through a combination of more neutral note size, quicker decay and greater linearity. And though high-frequencies are forward, its greater linearity makes smaller nuances easier to discern. Imaging is also enhanced as is layering on behalf of the AIR’s more refined midrange. That said, though instrument placement is precise, its accuracy is affected by its brightness.

 

Comparison –

ARES II ($150): The ARES II is a lighter cable with superior ergonomics, mainly due to its softer jacket. Effect Audio’s build and finish are just as coherent as Audio Genetic’s, that is to say, both excel. Both also utilise pre-moulded ear guides that are well-formed and comfortable.

The ARES II features a cleaner background and more extended treble. The AIR has slightly greater sub-bass extension combined with a similarly clean mid-bass and slightly attenuated upper-bass. Its lower-midrange is a little more present and its vocals are slightly more forward. The ARES II has a more pronounced upper-midrange so though its midrange isn’t as forward, it’s slightly clearer. The AIR is slightly brighter, especially with regards to lower treble where it has more pronounced instrumentation. On the contrary, the ARES II extends a little further, it also has a cleaner background on account of its less boosted middle-treble. Still, as it extends linearly, it has a little more resolution and similar amounts of air, the ARES II also retrieves a little more background detail.

PWAudio No.5 ($175): PWAudio’s entry-level copper cable doesn’t have the bespoke metal parts of Effect Audio and Audio Genetic’s competing models, but it has the softest insulation of the bunch. It’s similarly sized to the ARES II and also uses ergonomic pre-moulded ear guides.

The No.5 is a slightly warmer cable, it has less sub-bass impact and a touch more mid-bass, though it also has greater control so definition isn’t compromised. Still, the AIR sounds a little cleaner and more separated within its low-end. The AIR has a slightly smoother midrange on account of its slightly attenuated upper-midrange but it also has a more neutral tone due to its more restrained bass. On the contrary, the No.5 has a little more vocal presence and clarity, it’s also more even through its midrange with a more present upper-midrange. The AIR is a bit brighter up top, the No.5 is slightly more aggressively detailed while the AIR has more middle-treble, creating a slightly more open, airy presentation. Both extend similarly well though neither excels with sparkle.

 

Pairings –

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TFZ King Pro: The King Pro is already quite a bright IEM so this was probably the least ideal pairing. Bass extension remained similar but with a cleaner mid-bass presentation producing greater definition. Mids became over-articulated, too clear if such a thing exists. Highs were pushed forward too much for my liking, the background was over-bright and smaller details became overshadowed. Still, huge soundstage with immense separation, but not natural or balanced.

Audio Genetic AG2: The AIR has great synergy with the AG2, I can see why Audio Genetic decided to ship both together. Upon switching to the AIR, I noticed improved bass extension and considerably improved low-end separation and control. It had a more refined midrange with improved timbre, better balance male and female vocals. Brighter highs but also more linear and detailed. The AIR produced a larger stage with a noticeably more layered midrange.

Jomo Haka: The AIR has great synergy with the darker, smoother Haka. Bass was cleaned up, with improved extension and cleaner mid-bass. Vocal clarity was improved as was vocal presence. The AIR most notably brought out the Haka’s high-end, with noticeably more air and a crisper foreground detail presentation. The AIR thusly created a more spacious stage with especially improved separation.

64Audio U3: Though one may not consider the brighter AIR to synergize with the brighter U3, it’s actually a nice complement. Immediately improved bass extension and heightened impact. Lifted lower-midrange created a more naturally bodied midrange, more accurate timbre. Highs were just a little too forward, especially lower-treble, but the U3 maintained a clean background with improved air and extension. More spacious, separated stage.

EE Phantom: The Phantom ships with the ARES II which has great synergy with its slightly fuller, darker sound. That said, the AIR is also a good match. Its thicker midrange didn’t suit the already full-bodied Phantom, but as it slightly attenuated the Phantom’s fuller upper-bass, this was mostly redeemed. Highs were also a nice match, the AIR elevating treble, aiding clarity and shimmer. This served to provide a more spacious if less accurate soundstage.

Noble Katana: The Katana is another questionable pairing as an already brighter IEM. Bass quantity was slightly reduced and its signature shifted towards more high-frequency dominance. The midrange remained coherent but with added articulation. Treble was brought forward, not unbearably so, but it did compromise balance. Still, very spacious, incredibly airy and very detailed, though not balanced or natural in the slightest.

 

Verdict –

Audio Genetic may not (yet) have worldwide renown, but their unique cable designs showcase their passion and drive to innovate in a market of set absolutes. Though not their flagship, the AIR probably exemplifies their ethos most. It’s not the softest, most ergonomically invisible cable, but it handles itself well considering its size. Moreover, the cable’s air-insulated jacket is something I’ve yet to see from competitors and it grants a unique aesthetic that compliments a range of IEMs.

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Audio Genetic’s workmanship is also no less impressive than any leading brand and their use of bespoke parts heightens exclusivity. In listening, the AIR further reinforces these ideas. Though utilising OCC copper internals, the AIR delivers a sound that pairs a bright top-end with natural, clean low-end. It isn’t the most balanced, versatile cable as a result, but it finds surprisingly solid synergy with certain brighter IEMs. The AIR ultimately best suits buyers searching for a sturdy cable with a bright, resolving sound.  

The AIR can be purchased from Audio Genetic. I am not affiliated with Audio Genetic and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.

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