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Astrotec S80 Plus Review – Combo Breaker

Sound –

Testing Methodology: Measured using Arta via IEC 711 coupler to Startech external sound card. 7-9KHz peaks may be artefacts/emphasized due to coupler resonance. Measurements besides channel balance are volume matched at 1KHz. Fit depth normalized to my best abilities between earphones. Due to these factors, my measurements may not accurately reflect the earphone or measurements taken by others. I gave the S80 Plus 50hrs of burn-in prior to final evaluation to ensure maximum performance.

Tonality –

The S80 Plus is a bass-focused in-ear so in the same ballpark as the S80 before it but with a different execution. Both are warm and bassy yet uphold natural midrange voicings that will retain enjoyment for more critical listeners. However, it does take it one step further now and without the agility of the Be driver in its predecessor. In turn, the S80 does not necessarily comes across as an upgrade despite the naming scheme and vastly improved ergonomics. Still, though bass is elevated, the midrange has also been brought up. It somewhat resembles the Audiofly AFT2 but executes the midrange tuning especially slightly better, retaining a more natural voicing. In turn, those wanting a balanced sound will want to look elsewhere, this will appeal most to those wanting a rich and full sound for portable listening.

Bass –

The S80 Plus has a hefty bass emphasis, mostly sub and mid-bass before seeing a steep decline into a recessed lower midrange to enhance separation. Extension is quite good, there’s some pressure and a large, albeit somewhat loose slam. The mid-bass is plump and warm, notes are thick and enlarged as a result. In turn, bass is somewhat bloated and tubby sounding, there isn’t a heap of separation nor should one expect huge definition or an especially natural timbre. The S80 Plus is a bassy and fun earphone along with all of the positive and negative connotations this kind of tuning comes with.

Driver quality is decent, certainly not bad for the price or a TWS earphone in general. Conversely, it is not outstanding and, in turn, does not help too much to compensate for the large increase in bass body and warmth. Bass has fairly poor separation and definition. Attack is not as concise as it could be but decay isn’t too slow so it’s far from sloppy or messy and there’s pleasing texture to be enjoyed. Similarly, notes are just separated enough to avoid the smear I’ve seen on some other bassier budget TWS earphones so an above average performer overall. Still, this is surely an earphone that prioritises an engaging tuning over detail retrieval.

Mids –

Astrotec generally do a great job with their midrange tuning and the S80 Plus is a good example. As, though bassy, it has been tuned with this in mind with a sizeable drop through the upper-bass and lower-midrange preceding steady climb to 3kHz hump. This ensures vocals are never overshadowed and, similarly, that bass doesn’t spill into the midrange. Even on warmer tracks like Stephen Speak’s “Passenger Seat”, vocals were clean and well-defined. The midrange remains lightly warm but not excessively so, simply inviting and easy to enjoy. Additionally, as bass has been considerably bolstered, expect minimal thinness despite the sizeable dip entering the midrange. Vocals also don’t sound too forward in lieu of a more emphasized bass, they sit just behind it.

They are naturally voiced and showcase better extension than the Audiofly AFT2 which showcases a similar style of tuning, lacking the truncation I heard there. It isn’t the most revealing or transparent midrange that said, and this is apparent just by glancing the FR graph, rather slightly smooth and laid-back but with enjoyable clarity. The S80 showcased a similar style of tuning, that earphone is a bit more defined and articulate though no more natural in its voicing. The S80 Plus is a little more easy going and though it sacrifices some definition with its smoother articulation, it also avoids excessively smooth off its sound while being less susceptible to sibilance and sharpness.

Highs –

The top-end is on the smoother side and also showcases lies in the broad spectrum of average as far as extension goes, as is common for TWS earphones. It has a slightly sharper note attack that helps redeem some clarity and detail presence, again, coming across as slightly more engaging than the similarly tuned AFT2. Treble isn’t forward, but occupies good presence roughly on par with vocals. Instruments are presented with good body and a slightly organic timbre due to an uptick of warmth and smoothness. Cymbals have nice texture and just slightly truncated decay, though strings could do with a slightly sharper attack, they also have a natural presentation overall. As expected, there is minimal background or micro detail retrieval and headroom is limited.

You won’t get hyper-defined layers in turn, nor a wide open soundstage. The S80 is technically superior here in addition to sporting a more engaging tuning that highlights this facet. It offers a cleaner transient response with better fine detail retrieval. The S80 Plus is a more superficial experience, it doesn’t resolve the minutiae but focuses instead on producing a clean and natural treble presentation. And that’s very much what the listener will receive and can expect from the majority of TWS earphones. I am personally happy with this tuning as Astrotec haven’t implemented any peaks here to artificially bolster detail retrieval.

Soundstage –

The S80 Plus has a smaller soundstage that is contained within the head, this is unsurprising given the type of fit and sound profile. Imaging is enjoyable, with clear foreground and background, strongly centred vocals and crisp directional cues. It lacks pinpoint localisation but offers good organisation overall. Separation is also surprisingly good, bass is lacking but mids and treble sound well-defined.

Comparisons –

Astotec S80 ($69): The S80 is a more V-shaped earphone, quite a bit more energetic in its tuning but in a design that is not nearly as ergonomic. Bass is a little more natural with less emphasis and sub-bass bias. Its low-end is tighter, faster and more defined. The midrange voicing is similar, the S80 has higher definition and a slightly cleaner tone but also a sharper articulation. The S80 Plus meanwhile is smoother and slightly more coherent with a similarly natural voicing but it is also less revealing. The S80 has a sharper lower-treble and is clearly more detailed and extended. The S80 Plus has a bit more texture in the treble and is generally smoother and more laid-back. The S80 has a larger and more immersive soundstage with better imaging.

Lypertek LEVI ($69): The LEVI is not officially available for purchase but will be on the market soon. It is a successor in sorts to the famous TEVI and offers a similar experience at an even lower price. It is immediately more balanced than the S80 Plus and cleaner in its general expression. Bass is more sub-bass focused leaving much greater separation and definition in the mid-bass, but also less fullness and warmth. The midrange is similarly cleaner, clearer and more defined while the S80 Plus is a bit more inviting with a warmer, smoother and fuller delivery. Both sound natural, the LEVI is a bit more balanced overall, but I can imagine some finding them a bit mid-forward. The top-end is on the less aggressive side on both. The LEVI does not have a large soundstage but offers considerably higher separation and slightly more convincing imaging.

Audiofly AFT2 ($99): TheAFT2 is a larger and more fully-featured earphone but with a very similar tuning. I actually find the S80 Plus a little more agreeable in terms of timbre, but the AFT2 does have a leg up technically. The S80 Plus is slightly bassier, both have a similar voicing, but the AFT2 is noticeably more defined and separated. The midrange tells a similar story, the AFT2 has slightly higher definition but the S80 Plus has a better timbre with more extension and slightly more treble presence. In turn, the S80 Plus also has a slightly more balanced treble. It is no more resolving, but a bit more balanced. The AFT2 has a slightly larger soundstage and better separation in return. 

Verdict –

Ultimately, it seems fortunate for the consumer that the current market is so ripe with excellent value options. In turn, there is no reason not to expect good performance even at a low price. Within this context, the S80 Plus left me somewhat conflicted; delivering some excellent qualities and some questionable concessions. The compact form factor is superb and seal, isolation and comfort are all impeccable. I appreciate the more reliable touch controls and call quality that make it so much easier to live with than its predecessor. Still, they do irk at times, with an unreliable case dock that self-discharges over time. The sound is similarly a mixed bag, showcasing an impressively natural vocal timbre and treble, albeit with a notable bass focus and deeply average technical performance; perhaps due to the limited codec support. Resultantly, this will appeal most to those preferring a bassier sound. Given the excellent noise isolation, I feel a more balanced tuning would have gone far here, even the sound of the original S80 – but that’s just my personal preference. Altogether, for a meagre sum, the S80 Plus delivers a well-rounded experience and a step up from its predecessor in daily use, however, it fails to standout in a highly competitive market.

The S80 Plus is available from Astrotec (International) for $59 USD at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with Astrotec and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.

Track List –

Beck – Mellow Gold

Bob Segar – Night Moves

Brb. – Sorry That I Love You

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit

Crush – NAPPA

Dire Straits – Communique

Dirty Loops – Next To You

Eagles – Hell Freezes Over

Elton John – Honky Chateau

Eric Clapton – Unplugged

Joji – Sanctuary

Nirvana – Nevermind

Pixies – Doolittle

Post Malone – beerbongs & bentleys

Radiohead – OK Computer

Rich Brain – The Sailor

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

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