Disclaimer: We got the Cypher Labs Austru as a free sample from CL directly for this review. We have reviewed several Cypher Labs products before. If you want to check them out click here.
Cypher Labs is known for their high performing amplifiers and DACs. Although I’ve never used an amp made by them, I got to know their reputation as amp-makers from my friends and community. It feels strange never having experienced an amp from CL and now I’m reviewing their third monitor instead. They also gathered some experience about crafting IEM’s with the C6IEM V1 and V2, so let’s find out what this one has to offer.
“For over 4 years we’ve built high tech amplifiers, cables and accessories. We’ve applied all that audio expertise to our own series of in-ear-monitor earphones.”
ABOUT THE IEM
Recently, hybrid IEM’s really became the fashion among manufacturers. I suppose the general knowledge is increasing and spreading about building and crafting those 2-driver types together in one package. The advantage of the dynamic driver is too good to ignore I suppose, so coupling the BA and Dynamic Drivers might be the ultimate choice. Of course there is no single truth in audio, there are multiple ways to achieve the best sound quality possible. But common sense tells me that bringing out the best of both worlds would make the sound better, at least in theory.
The Austru consists of a 10mm Dynamic Driver, plus 3 Balanced Armature Drivers (1 for mids and 2 for highs). The Quad Driver Design also has a bass control switch, which alters the low-end response. The switch is very small and comes out of the shell. It feels like a studio kind of switch in appearance.
“We’ve incorporated a selector switch in the earphone body so the listener has control over the low end audio. No tools needed! The switch alters the dynamic driver’s cross-over point so that the dynamic driver is fully engaged for full bass or in the second position resistance is added to roll off 50% of the bass from the dynamic driver.”
Before the Austru, Cypher Labs had built C6IEM and it was their first ever. You can click here to see the V2 review.
PACKAGE, DESIGN, FIT
The box contains all the classic things you would expect: Lots of tips, a Pelican case, a soft case, a cleaning tool and some documents about Cypher Labs and the Austru. I mostly liked the richness of the tips. There are 3 pairs of Shure-olive type foams, 4 pairs of gray foam tips and 3 pairs of silicones. Including many tips in a Universal IEM box is crucial IMO as this way there’s more chance to find the proper fit to your ears. The Pelican Case is a nice bonus as well so nicely done by Cypher Labs.
Build quality is excellent and I didn’t expect any different from Cypher Labs. The 2-pin cables sit deeply inside the recessed connectors, the faceplate looks great and the rest of the shell is very very sturdy. The transition from the actual shell to the faceplate is completely seamless and smooth. The nozzles are made from metal which is perfect. I can easily say this is one of the better IEM’s I’ve experienced regarding build quality.
Its design is slick; bright silver faceplates and a black coloured shell. They look cool in my ears and they show their presence. It is quite big in size, as expected, but fortunately it doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable in general use. Austru has a rounded shape and a good nozzle angle and therefore despite being a little bulky, the physical comfort is great. So we have a good shell design by CL here, as it’s better than many universal monitors regarding comfort. The nozzles have aluminum filters as far as I can see, therefore keeping them clean could be important for not blocking the sound in the long run.
Isolation is not outstanding but certainly not bad either. As usual, foam tips block the sound better but the silicone ones deliver a more sparkling sound. In addition, black foams give the best low end response to my ears. When using silicone tips the isolation is quite nice when the music is on so you shouldn’t face any isolation problems with the right size. But again, the best isolation comes with foams. Anyway, the fit is great and comfortable, so I didn’t feel the need for a superb isolation.
GENERAL SOUND CHARACTER
Before this, I reviewed the Maverick and the Martian which were Japanese and worldwide hybrid offerings respectively from Unique Melody. The last IEM I reviewed was the Oriolus MKII which is another hybrid. Now it’s the Austru and the next review will also be a hybrid IEM, so it’s quite the hybrid journey for me. The aim of hybrids is the natural and powerful bass response as you know, so it was interesting to test this monitor which has a bass switch.
On the whole, Austru is a very clean sounding, controlled and a balanced monitor. It can be considered as a little mid forward, as well as light, detailed and close to neutral. It’s not a meaty or bold monitor by any means but it doesn’t lack the bass response required. It has a good coherency across the spectrum and it controls the possible aggressive points very well.
First of all I expected a bassy monitor to be honest but I was surprised to see it is not quite that bassy. Austru definitely is not for the bass heads but it’s not fully flat either. Don’t get me wrong, there just is less low end presence than I expected and that was the first surprise for me. Another surprise was the bass switch: I expected a big difference but the effect is not too big, even minimal I should say. So don’t expect you would have a big low end difference by flicking the switch, it’s a more subtle change.
Still, when the switch is not forward, low end is close to flat overall. When you push it forward, you get a more breaking through bass. So the change is there but it’s not super apparent, especially when you’re not listening to a bassy recording. But anyway it’s good to have the switch option. You don’t need any tools by the way, just flick the switch with your finger and you’re good to go. Not having an obligation to use a tool is nice, so the process is very quick.
The downside of that is that occasionally you accidentally flick the switch . The switch is not stiff, so when you push it a little with your finger it easily goes forward or backward. Therefore, when you touch the IEM’s to re-position them in your ears or when you take them out, there’s a chance to switch them accidentally. But putting them in the right position after is also seamless. So ultimately, I don’t think this is a issue.
The bass quantity is spot on in this IEM when the switch is forward. When it’s positioned on the back however, I didn’t like the response as it was a little flat for my personal liking. So to get the right amount of bass and body, I personally recommend to use the switch on the forward position. But of course you can choose not to do so, based on your own preferences. The good thing is, there’s no negative effect on other frequencies when you switch the setting, it really only affects the bass part.
Lows give a natural feeling just like the other hybrids I’ve listened before but the separation of the low freq’s is not perfect. Especially the midbass area is somewhat bleeding into the vocals at certain points. This is not a desired situation of course but improvement is very much possible. I’m going to mention it in the upgrade cable section. For now I can say with the stock cable; the tightness and the recovery of the bass is very good thanks to the Dynamic Driver, but separation is not as good on midbass area.
Find more about the sound by clicking here or following the jump below.