It’s in and out time, folks, and the Astrotec AX-60 is on the menu. This delightful bit of aluminium and rubber is garnished with three drivers, one dynamic, and two balanced armatures. It comes recommended for the customer who enjoys a mature listen, who invests in the long run. Who isn’t Astrotec’s current customer.
Driver: 10mm Dynamic + Dual-Balanced Armature
Frequency response: 8 Hz - 28000 Hz
Sensitivity: 110 dB/1mw (S.P.Lat 1KHz)
Impedance: 12 OHM
Cable: 1.2m +/-0.3m Galaxy cable
Connector: 3.5mm gold plated connector
Max input: 10 mW
Made in CHINA
AX-60 comes garnished with two pair of foam pads, three pair of triple silicon flanges, and two pair of single silicon flanges. I suggest starting with the single pair, which goes most excellently with a thin scraping of softened earwax. If your biology trends toward a flakey consistency, try the foams, or a good cerumenolytic solution, as you may have difficulty with fit. Triple flange fans, you know who you are. And I salute you, but never, ever will join your crew. Whatever tip set you choose, expect comfort- if not good isolation. AX-60 goes in well enough, but at an angle that only a tight-eared frequent buffet-goer could love. For most, fit is a bitch. And with a loose fit goes most of this earphone’s brilliant, focused sound.
ohmage & porridge: kitsch and quality
The Astrotec brand is about the only thing kitschy the AX-60 has to offer. Astro? Tec without the ‘h’? Pshaaaw! Your anus! But the AX-60 comes with no shiny bits, no flashy bits, no faux carbon fibre, and absolutely no Sweet’N Low.
It is also a pretty well-built machine. Aluminium extends from butt to sound tube and the filters attach via precise screw mounts. The cable is sturdy enough and protected earphone-side by a good rubber nugget. Both the y split and the 3,5mm stereo plug are finished well. So well, that I did a double take at the country of origin. That’s not to say that MADE IN CHINA means crap.
But rare is it to find such a jewel from a Chinese-owned AND operated company. Please forgive the caps- I’m still surprised by AX-60’s clean aluminium finish, the tightly machined tolerances between neck cinch and the cable, and indeed, by the smooth, cleanly-sheathed cable itself. Do I expect it to last as long as an Audio Technica CK10? Actually, my beautiful blue AX-60 is already showing grey. So, no, it won’t last as long as the CK10. No sir. But this is most definitely not a typical product from a Chinese owned and operated outfitted. The box? Okay, the box is a total waste of materials and space. A Cypher Labs Theorem 720 and attendant accessories could fit in. It’s an anti-eco afterthought at best. But somewhere beside the paint job and fit quality, ass had to rear itself. And I’ll take ass paint and fit and box over ass cable or ass housing any day.
AX-60 isn’t a neutral sounding earphone. It’s a bit warm. But it’s not analytical. It’s got no upper mid smear, and no real upper peaks. Upper mids are clear, and wide. And, with perfect fit, bass comes through with great volume, detail, and punch. But you may be damned if you find that fit, or keep it for long. Loose fit makes for tepid lows, tight fit brings in the punch. With a good fit, lows carry enough weight way down low to render the impressively subtle fibres of Markus Schulz’ Mainstage. Naturally, with good fit, hip-hop really vibrates. With poor fit, you will hear only a whisper of what the AX-60 is capable.
So what draws me to this pluralistic sound?
I keep asking myself that question. Cymbals are slightly flatter than I like, vocals not quite accented enough; and percussion, while clear, could do with a bit more bite. Honestly, after a month and a half with the AX-60 in my ears, I can’t wiggle my finger on a defining reason as to why I’ve fallen in love. But in love I am.
If pressed (go ahead, do it), I would say that it is the wide, detailed sound stage that’s got me. It is not only wide, it is detailed and impeccably placed. Vocals are centre-stage; at the edges, ripples percussion. At the sides shimmers the speedy birth and decay of cymbals and snares. In terms of extension and space, it is a concoction perféct. Not too much of either comes through. Detail is found in the space betwixt instruments. And therein is a mature warmth that is worth coming back to. Over and over again.
Time and time again I come back. Strange. Despite fit issues, despite a bass that can at times be speedy, at times be slothful, I keep coming back. Perhaps it is that wide, gathering soundstage. Whatever it is, I’m here, and I’ll be back. Cymbacavum’s skipper organised this loaner pair. Word up! It wasn’t long before I was opening my wallet to Noisy Hotel to secure my own AX-60. Bastard.
If you can, check out one of the AX-60 tours. You owe it to yourself. Find that fit. You’ll thank me. AX-60’s goodies come out in its impressively real, yet detailed sound stage, a space where bass and treble detail really bubble up. Flat bits excite, flarey bits flare out a bit more. Its realistic, detailed bass, unaccented mid-upper midrange, and smooth, yet detailed treble are the 60’s axe. And the AX-60 is Astrotec’s axe. It’s time to use it to hew down the overgrown and aimless proliferation Astrotec have hitherto tended, and which peg the Astrotec brand as typical, cheap Chinese products.
AX-60 should lead the way. Check please!