Astrotec was founded almost 2 decades ago in Hong Kong with the pursuit of innovation and excellence. Since they’ve created some of the finest earbuds on the market alongside a line of value-orientated IEMs. With such goals in mind, however, the designers at Astrotec couldn’t stop there. Enter the Phoenix, their first flagship IEM sporting cutting-edge electro-static tweeters found more commonly on summit-fi monitors costing multiples more. With limited capacity to produce bass and requiring micro-transformers that makes matching with other drivers very difficult, estats drivers are among the most difficult technology to implement. Astrotec circumvents this with their use of a highly customised dynamic driver alongside authentic rosewood and titanium alloy housings that create an optimal acoustic environment. You can read more about the Phoenix and treat yourself to one here.
Power in, power out; The Phoenix has a middling 85dB sensitivity so it really requires a good source to sing. However, once appropriately matched, the Phoenix rewards with excellent end to end extension and a highly engaging W-shaped signature. Immense sub-bass extension can be expected, with lows that reach into the depths of the perceived and produce the sensation of air moving within the ear. Sub-bass itself is big and bold, delivering guttural rumble and power. Bass then resembles a slope, with decreasing emphasis into the lower-midrange; so though the mid-bass retains pleasant fullness, a recessed upper-bass and lower-midrange mitigate excessive warmth and maximise bass/midrange separation. You don’t get the hyper-defined and quick decaying qualities of most flagships. However, the Phoenix excels with regards to its dynamics and excellent driver control when properly driven, where it nonetheless retains great definition and detail. Mids achieve balance with a wide-band push through centre and upper-midrange from 2 KHz through to 4 KHz.
It doesn’t follow the conventional Harmon curve but does yield prominent vocals with excellent clarity and extension. Due to its low-end tuning, the midrange is modestly warm but never congested. As the lower-treble is significantly attenuated, there isn’t a hint of thinness or over-articulation despite its upper-midrange presence, while portraying vocals with excellent clarity and openness. When it comes to highs, the implementation of estat drivers is quite curious. Surely, some higher-price BA earphones provide more raw detail retrieval. However, the estat almost achieves parity and it does so in a smoother and more effortless manner. Part of this comes down to Astrotec’s particular implementation with notably smooth lower-treble and subsequent rise through the middle-treble. Despite this, there is no glare and the background isn’t overly emphasized or bright. This aids a crisp and open presentation. The background is well-realised and resolution is very high. There is strong extension into the upper-treble and a slight emphasis producing a moderate amount of sparkle. This grants the Phoenix excellent layering and sharp imaging in addition to a wide soundstage.
Early verdict –
Then we come to the shocker, the Phoenix costs $799 USD. To some buyers that may be a hefty sum, but not for a flagship and certainly not for one with estat tweeters. The Phoenix may not be on the same level as the quad-estat Empire Wraith, however, within its price range, the implementation of estat driver is very impressive and does yield benefit over similarly priced earphones of other driver types. Furthermore, the custom dynamic driver is appropriately tuned and matches coherently. This does come with one prime caveat, low sensitivity. As a result, those without a proper dedicated source may struggle to drive the Phoenix and I will be exploring source pairings more in my full review. Otherwise, the earphone is absolutely gorgeous to look at and has excellent ergonomics. Piotr, the founder of Custom Art, postulated that a flagship doesn’t necessarily represent the best of the best, but rather a no-compromise experience. That’s exactly what Astrotec has realised here, a highly dynamic signature granted outstanding end to end extension through a strong implementation of cutting edge technology.
Stay tuned for the full review!