Full review now published here!
Founded in 2017, Avara are Indonesia’s first CIEM manufacturer who have gained rapid international traction with their unreal value. For reference, their cheapest custom offering comes in at just $99, essentially unprecedented pricing. The company uses SLA 3D printing for quick turnaround (as little as 3 days) and high-precision manufacturing. The staff here are nothing but hard working and fastidious.
Enter the EST-6, a genuinely high-end CIEM with a $1100 USD asking price. Implementing 4x BA drivers and Sonion dual electrostatic tweeters, the EST-6 promises sensational performance. Avara went full out with this model with no expense spared, even investing in a GRAS measurement rig that meets international standards. What differentiates this setup is its especially accurate representation of human ear anatomy, making it highly cost prohibitive but also the best tool to ensure the listener perceives a perfectly flat frequency response. Avara’s flagship is such a creation.
Where I’ve been very hesitant with transparent CIEMs before, the new crop of 3D printed shells are impressing me more and more. Alvon, the man behind the operation, was very enthusiastic to go with an all-transparent design to showcase the leaps and strides they’ve made minimising bubbles and imperfections. The results speak for themselves. My EST-6 is essentially flawless with only a handful of microscopic bubbles visible upon very close inspection. The level of transparency is terrific, showcasing the stunning 6-driver array inside alongside the eye-catching high-voltage transformers. The shells are also of a solid-body design, with a dense, quality in-hand feel.
Fit & Isolation –
Due to their design, the EST-6 offers superlative passive noise isolation, especially of low frequencies. And where most customs should achieve a perfect fit, my abnormal left ear canal, I’ve been told, is a challenge for many CIEM manufacturers. In order to circumvent this, I suggested to Alvon that the fit depth should be slightly altered. My EST-6 has a medium, almost shallow fit, though not quite like that seen on Campfire Audio’s customs. They still lock in confidently to the ear and remain well-put during movement. However, they deliver perfect wearing comfort with zero pressure. Safe to say, these are some of my favourite customs yet in both design and ergonomics.
Early Impressions –
Testing Methodology: Measured using Arta via IEC 711 coupler to Startech external sound card. 7-9KHz peaks may be artifacts/emphasized due to my measurement setup. Measurements besides channel balance are volume matched at 1KHz. Fit depth normalized to my best abilities. Due to these factors, my measurements may not accurately reflect the earphone or measurements taken by others. My thoughts follow.
Unfortunately, I made some early comments that the midrange seemed off timbre to me on first listen. Well, I was wrong – which highlights the importance of “resetting” your ears/brain before each and every review with a standardized reference. For the EST-6 has shaped up to be a highly natural performer. Overall balance is excellent with a slight focus on vocals and an emphasis on coherence over clarity.
The low-end is linear and balanced without obvious colouration. Extension is a typical BA affair, there isn’t outstanding depth, power or rumble on display but a tight, agile response prioritising timing and definition through the mid-bass. Nonetheless, the EST-6 is not anaemic with adequate body and fullness down low set to quick decay and strong control which permit great detail retrieval if not the most dynamic image overall.
There’s a slight bolstering around the bass/midrange transition that grants a touch of additional body to vocals. A progressive climb to 3KHz prominence infuses powerful vocal size and slightly forward presence alongside convincing clarity. As emphasis quickly falls off after, articulation is smooth and refined and the EST-6 has a touch of additional density. As such, the presentation is very coherent and carries a pleasant, natural timbre with defined yet wholly resolved notes as opposed to emphasized clarity and separation.
The top-end is a touch laid-back relative to the midrange but carries a crisp foreground presentation on behalf of a small 6KHz push, with great fine detail retrieval. This means the sound is far from blunted or detail sparse. The background meanwhile, is dark and immaculate, while a small bump in the upper-treble imbue a touch of additional sparkle and liveliness. The EST-6 has excellent top-end extension with an effortless micro-detail presentation and great resolution. However, as it isn’t the brightest earphone, these traits are apparent but not quite showcased to the listener, being uncovered over longer listening sessions.
These qualites grant a pleasantly expanded if not cavernous soundstage with a good balance between width and depth. Imaging is its prime strength, with swift transients in the high-end alongside outstanding overall linearity providing accurate and precise positioning. It lacks the sharp, hyper-defined directional cues some high-end models provide, but is pleasantly holographic with pinpoint localisation.
Early Verdict –
Despite having a wide range of IEMs as a reviewer, there are some that just click with me. If you have the means and, like me, have a preference for naturally tuned monitors, the EST-6 will be a great daily driver. It’s resolving yet never tiring, coherent but never congested. Throwing around a terms such as “flat” is playing with fire and can give many the wrong impression that the monitor is boring. So I will instead posit that, when listening to the EST-6, it has just about enough of everything. It isn’t perfectly linear but traces a diffuse-field neutral curve relatively closely with a small bump in the mid-bass and a slightly smoother upper-midrange and lower-treble that bring it right inline with my preferences. I’m looking forward to putting this earphone through its paces in the coming weeks alongside comparisons and source synergy.
Stay tuned for the full review coming soon!