Our review today covers the new Astrotec Phoenix 6 flagship IEM featuring a single dynamic, BA, and a quad electrostatic driver design. It is priced at $1559.
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Astrotec Phoenix 6 Review
The Astrotec Phoenix 6 is a surprise package for me. I wasn't expecting such a mature, smooth, and agreeable sound signature. This is a tuning clearly aimed at the Western market with a thumping bass performance, smooth and inviting vocal tones, and a coherent but inoffensive treble.
Astrotec has decided to enter the big leagues with the launch of their new flagship multi-driver monitor called the Phoenix 6. I say big leagues because it is their most ambitiously priced IEM to date as well as the general level of complexity within the engineering.
Though we never reviewed or even handled the original Phoenix that came out last year I believe, this new 6 version is not what you would call a moderate tweak.
The original bears only a passing resemblance with its inclusion of an electrostatic dual-driver pack. Otherwise, this is an altogether grander affair meant to compete with rival tribrid models from established brands.
The Phoenix 6 is a universal IEM with a tribrid driver configuration. That means a blend of 3 different types of drivers in what I presume is a 4-way crossover network for the lows, mids, highs, and ultra-highs.
On the low-end the Phoenix we have a single dynamic driver though Astrotec does not mention either the type and size of this driver. For the mids, it’s a single Sonion BA which I presume is a closed rather than vented design.
The top-end is covered by a single quad pack of Sonion Electrostatic drivers complete with a more efficient gen 2 energizer and split into 2 for the highs and 2 for the ultra-highs.
Since it’s a 2nd gen Sonion setup, the efficiency ratings are not too bad though I am presuming at this early stage it still will not be hugely sensitive at 108dB and a vanishingly low 5Ω impedance ratings. Specs like this remind me of some of the later electrostatic models from Empire Ears that tends to offer resistance levels at 5Ω or less in the case of the Valkyrie II.
The Phoenix 6 is a diminutive 3-piece shell crafted from an intricate slice of titanium, (alloy). It’s supremely robust and sturdy to the touch and beautifully intricate to the eye. And it is pleasing light! I was not expecting an almost featherlight feel in the hand and ear from an almost entirely metal-based monitor.
Impressively, Astrotec has managed to get some decent contouring into the design which you do not normally see on a metallic monitor housing. Typically, they can be quite ‘blobby’ and do not quite conform to your ear quite as well as more precisely shaped acrylic alternatives but that is not the case here. The Phoenix 6 has all the bumps in the right places for a comfortable fit.
If the main shell is all about comfortable contouring then the faceplate is pushing the aesthetics with an intricate honeycombed stamping on a 3-dimensional or dome-like contour.
It is not quite uniform but that seems entirely on purpose with varying hexagonal shapes and angles of the stamp. It is quite a clever little design considering you are cutting into titanium and not using a traditional flat painted plate design.
The accents are judiciously positioned with a delicate italicized Phoenix 6 on the rear of the shell and a small venting port on the top near a slightly recessed 2-pin 0.78mm cable connection.
Astrotec has supplied not 1 but 2 cables with the Phoenix 6 with one of them being of substantially superior quality which means the other one is more or less a backup IMHO.
Let’s talk about the first cable then. On the outside, this is a quality finished 1.2m 4-wire 26AWG high purity OCC silver-plated copper wire tightly braided and finished with a translucent PVC jacket. It is low on microphonics, pliant, and easy to work with zero memory retention, much like a decent aftermarket offering you would expect to pay 3 digits for.
On the inside, the geometry of the cable is split into three layers. The SPC wire is at the core covered with a single strand, 30-core 0.05 OCC, and then wrapped with a 200D ‘bulletproof’ fiber TPEE insulation layer. It is this layer that gives it a dullish silvery tone and not the SPC wire itself.
The barrels are all finished in raw titanium with copper-finished angular threads close to the exits of both the splitter and the jack. The blocky chin cinch is finished in a complimentary copper tone though this doesn’t feel like titanium, more like a hard resin or plastic. It works though and that is the main thing. It does not feel sticky at all and holds its position quite well.
This particular cable is terminated with a balanced 4.4mm jack and a 2-pin left right at the other end with matching titanium barrels. Just one critique on the connectors barrels and that’s the very hard-to-see left and right channel markings. It could do with a bit more black or white to see them more clearly.
Consider the SE cable your backup unless you really do not want to go balanced or have no converters. This is also an SPC cable with more of a rubbery PVC finish and a looser braid. It still looks like a 4-wire inside though but the entire cable feels a lot lighter than the premium cable.
On the plus side the cable is very quiet also, next to no memory retention, and given its lighter feel might suit some sensitive to cable weight when in use. However, the materials used do look lower quality with metal barrels instead of titanium, no finishing accents, and a rubbery right-angled 3.5mm jack barrel design.
Comfort & Isolation
Oh, this is a comfy little chap, much more so than I was anticipating given it’s a metallic creation. As mentioned before Astrotec has managed to contour the heck out of the Phoenix 6’s titanium alloy so it bends and bumps very much like an acrylic quasi-universal design.
Sure, metal is not quite as forgiving as acrylic for settling in your ear but still, the lightweight design hardly pokes out at all from your concha basin nor does it put any unwanted pressure on the ridges around it.
There is some decent penetrative depth also with the nozzle design which is reasonably long allowing the choice of tips to finish the last mile and seal up the experience. Mind you, this is a vented monitor shell so the level of isolation is not going to be as good as an entirely BA micro-DD creation that requires no such hole.
You get an eclectic range of tips with the Phoenix 6, some work well and some not so much. The not so much included the double flange tips which either were too small and couldn’t provide a seal for me or the steel opening was incredibly narrow rendering it impossible to get them on.
YMMV and depending on your ear size the smaller flange tips might pose no issues for those with smaller canals but the larger ones with the narrow stem opening will give you a solid challenge.
The other sites included a set of SpinFit lookalikes labeled as vocals and a translucent single bore alternative labeled for bass. Both offer good fits, both are easy to get onto the nozzle and they perform as expected.
The bass tips slam hard and the vocal tips tighten it up a little providing more space for the mids to shine. My preference was for the vocal tips for most of my listening but the bass tips are dynamic and fun for casual listening.
The final batch of tips are the foams. They provided an unsurprising performance with a decent balance, not too much bass but more warmth than the silicone single-bore tips but also slightly less treble presence and a bit relaxed sounding also.
Packaging & Accessories
The Phoenix 6 packaging is professional, not hugely compact but then again sometimes you need to impress with a bit of grandeur at this price point. This is an all-black printed box with a dual foam layer inside for the protection of the drivers and accessories.
Aside from the drivers, you get a faux leather tanned carry case, the two cables, a cleaning tool, and a small protective drive pouch also in case you want to pop them in there for additional protection when out and about. The tips are held in a thick foam display container and clearly labeled.
The case itself is neat and tidy but also fairly standard. These types of cases have been knocking around no for years and I know Astrotec is a fan of them. Personally, I would have preferred to have seen the newer and larger round puck-style cases as they offer a bit more room to stick everything in.
This one is ok but a lot shallower so only enough room for the cable, tips, and driver. Two cables can be a challenge to fit neatly in this case along with everything else.
I had some preconceived notions that the Phoenix 6 would be a bright little thing with a lean bass but how wrong am I? Very it seems. The Phoenix 6 has some Harman Target Curve aspirations here with a lifted bass shelf, pushed upper mids, and a gentle fade on the top end. It sounds wonderfully smooth and inviting with some excellent bass to underpin it.
This is an IEM for euphonic timbre fans, and in part, vocal lovers. It gels really well with modern R’n’B and pop and with almost every DAP it delivers a forgiving performance.
There is a certain ‘joviality’ in the sound signature of the Phoenix, one that lights up those key touchpoints of bass and vocal and delivered them in a balanced manner. It is also quite a contrast to some competing hybrids with similar configurations.
It’s richer and bassier than the AAW Halcyon, yet more balanced and less bombastic than the Valkyrie II from Empire Ears. It also competes quite well with the Softears Cerberus which uses a dual Electrostatic Gen 1 instead of the Phoenix’s newer Gen 2 implementation.
So if you ask me does it compete, in terms of FR tuning and coloration, in terms of power and balance between vocals and the low-end, then yes, the Phoenix 6 is surprisingly mature, and dare I say it, a welcome Western-orientated tuning.
I had referenced Harman in my opening comments on the Phoenix 6 tuning though to be fair whilst it is close, the main Harman Target pinna gain peak of 3k is a little flatter and broader on the Phoenix 6 with a plateau stretched from 2-3k to 4-5k.
I suspect this avoids any potential peakiness from amplifying the BA driver too hard as well as part and certainly, it contributes to the overall smooth tone from range.
Further down the Phoenix 6 bass has a broad shelf from 20-100Hz much like the classic Harman Target curve before it drops but not in a recessed manner. From there on it’s a slow rise to 1k that gives a nice lift to background instruments in terms of presence and body.
From 2k onwards to 5k you get that plateau which pushes contratenor and soprano vocals very much to the fore with lower-mid instruments tucked in behind though not terribly thinned out or cold sounding.
From 5k onwards the Phoenix 6 fades its presence gradually and I suspect this is where the dampening begins for the e-stats which seem to have a delicate touch rather than force themselves into the equation. Overall, this is a relaxed curve and one that benefits the elevated upper-mids coloration, picking up very little in the way of sharp overtones.
The Phoenix 6 delivers a fulsome and smooth-sounding instrumental and vocal timbre with just a light smattering of treble overtones to keep notes from sounding rounded and dull in their delivery.
The bass weight is excellent. Not Weapon IX+ level in terms of thrust and absolute rumble but it is definitely north of neutral in terms of power with instruments benefiting from an excellent fundamental and decent sub-bass presence.
If you are coming from the likes of the AAW Halcyon and the Cerberus, I think the Phoenix 6 has the advantage here and possibly the better driver for digging deep and giving some authority to bass synth and kick drum notes.
Mid timbre is warmer and smoother compared to the likes of the Valkyrie II, with vocals a high point in terms of presence and euphony. That treble fade keeps any edginess and induced sibilance well away but just enough for a dash of sweetness.
R2R DAPS will produce the best performance with the Phoenix 6 if you want to retain and double down on that creamy vocal tone delivery though at the cost of a little air in the case of the RS6.
I must say also, that despite the Phoenix 6’s willing and enjoyable macro performance, the micro is less revealing, especially in the mids. That is probably the one weaker area where resolution is 2nd place to the timbral character. Perhaps adding a 2nd BA driver in there and splitting the mids FR could have pulled in some improved textured detail and character in the notes.
For example, the Cerberus does not have the same snap and impact from its bass driver but in quieter passages of music where notes break after the initial attack you can pick up on a bit more detail in the sustain and body of the instruments, something which the Phoenix is less adept at producing.
Excellent depth, a forward vocal and upper-midrange, and a slightly relaxed treble provide for a relatively expansive and dynamic soundstage from the Phoenix 6.
The power from the Phoenix 6 elevated bass shelf is impressive. Against our comparison of IEMS on page 2, only the Valkyrie II delivered more power and perceived depth sub-50Hz with the Halcyon sounding a bit too polite, even with the Bass filter and punchier Final E tips applied.
The Softears Cerberus had more weight but it felt less distinct and not as punchy sounding. The Phoenix 6 dynamic driver came across as being more capable both in terms of definition and clarity, providing slightly better dynamic range in our tested tracks as a result.
Midrange instruments tuck in behind vocals which are mostly to the fore. Here there is just a shade less air and clarity coming through in terms of detail at the micro-level.
If you are working tracks in with a sparse mix, typical of modern R’n’B, you probably will notice it that much but once you throw on more tracks with intricate complex arrangements the Phoenix 6 mids struggle a little bit more in terms of imaging accuracy.
Click on page 2 below for pairings and select comparisons