The Astrotec Volans is a universal IEM featuring a single 10.5mm Tesla magnetic brass dynamic driver combined with a multi-layer biological diaphragm. It is priced at $329.
Disclaimer: The Astrotec Volans sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank Astrotec for this opportunity.
To learn more about Astrotec products we have reviewed on Headfonics you can click here.
Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2021 which you can read up on here.
Astrotec is one of the most popular earbuds manufacturers with multiple patented technologies, and their latest creation Volans is the latest in-ear addition to the Zodiac series.
There are actually two versions of the Volans, a Galaxy Blue finish, and a Mint Green finish. The one we are reviewing is the Mint Green finished version.
Inside its metallic green chamber houses a large 10.5mm dynamic driver with coil parts from Japan also a special resonant chamber in brass. The Volans comes in two versions that sport pop/ high fidelity target curves and we are getting the POP version in green color this time.
According to Astrotec, it took them more than 5 years to finalize the design. Since 2016, they have been testing different structures until they find a way to combine the acoustic qualities of brass and their new biological diaphragm driver.
Curious how this techy IEM performs? Read on.
The Volans packs in quite a different set of features compared to the competition and the copper driver holder that fits in the front chamber is the most distinct aspect of that design.
Along with the 32Ω high-performance Tesla magnetic brass driver unit, there is wonderful texture and coloring in the midbass. In addition, the driver uses a Daikoku coil from Japan with a multi-layer Bio-Cellulose composite membrane which reminds me of some Sony designs.
Moreover, Astrotec claims to have achieved an 8Hz – 40000Hz wide frequency response with the Volans so we are expecting a lot of dynamics and details to be heard.
The Volans has a very light-weighted aluminum housing with contours that are artistic and elegant at the same time. The curvy design with satin finish gives a gradient of green when light bounces off, displaying good contrast when you spin it around.
The body of the earphone is well machined and feels solid on the palm, scratching it with a coin there is little trace of wearing and the coated layer is quite strong. The copper color front chamber gives the design a nice touch, a little bit retro-styled, and fuses seamlessly to the body.
Flipping the Volans to the other side you will see the brand, model number, and L/R indicators near the MMCX sockets. You can observe some vents near the nozzle, which are quite extended and helping to create a secure fit.
The high purity OFC stock cable with the Volans is minty, light green toned, and matches the theme in weight and color. The cable gauge is compact, and when unplugging/replugging the connection is quite secured, holding in place firmly.
It doesn’t take a lot of force to unplug and there is no gap when it snaps together. Silver and brass accents on the parts offer a nice contrast and the overall look is quite refreshing.
Comfort & Isolation
With a rather extended nozzle and a compact body size, the Volans easily slides into my ears and fits quite deep into the ear canal. While the body looks quite metallic it actually is very light as aforementioned and does not stress the ear at all even after a few hours of listening.
Noise isolation is decent due to the deep insertion, you will still hear some faint noise from the ambiance, and using the foams helps it to block a little bit more noise.
If you push it to the deepest point you will notice the bass being tighter and if you want a more airy presentation you could try wearing it a bit looser.
Packaging & Accessories
The Volans comes in clean packaging but when you dig inside you will see a waterproof case that is larger in size than Westone cases or the pelican waterproof cases.
The lock mechanism of the case is nicely molded and can be opened with a clean click, and the inner side of the case is padded with soft patchings.
With plenty of room inside you can store the Volans with thick upgrade cables or even small DAPs at ease. The case is definitely quite large to carry with but it shall act as a decent storage option for extra protection.
There are a few sets of tips (S/M/L sizes) supplied, as well as cleaning tools, a cable binder, and a pair of foams. There is also a small pouch that houses the L/R sides of the IEM individually so that they won’t scratch against each other.
More than 100 hours of burn-in is given to the Volans to warm up the dynamic driver. When paired with different sources you can clearly hear the performance scaling up with gears that are able to give bigger swings, and it gets quite loud with a phone or an entry-level DAP.
We are reviewing the Mint Green version this time which has a more rounded treble and there is a high fidelityGalaxy Blue version that I am told is brighter and more extended in the upper register.
Nevertheless, the Volans Mint Green version displays good dynamics with acoustic instruments and well-weighted vocal. There is good strength in bringing your attention to the bass sustain, harmonics, and vocal body. The treble is carefully rounded to kill sibilance whilst not limiting the staging nor sounding boxy.
With a lot of copper/brass parts, you are going to hear some additional coloring to the bass. There is plenty of energy and intimacy, and the sub-bass rumble is nicely controlled so as not to hinder clarity.
The attack is slightly soft with a moderately slow decay but still retains a punchy feel, dispersing airily with a lot of power and density while keeping the pace tight enough to not sound laggy.
The upper bass on the other hand is more elevated such that most pop sounds engaging with punchy kicks, in particular lower-pitching instruments that are delivered full and textured.
There is a good balance between resolution and resolving power in a comfortably rendered bass performance and it articulates to the mids clean and swiftly.
The mids are quite authentic and dense with a bit of warmth that colors it expressively. The vocal is well outlined, intimate, 3D in the image, and cleanly separated from the backing instruments.
You will immediately feel the Volans’ character once you fire up any vocal tracks and it can handle breathy voices, energetic voices, or even opera with good authority. I find the coloring, in particular, to be engaging with recordings that have cleaner vocals in the mix.
Acoustic guitars sound meaty and detail-rich when it gets down to the decays, and you can hear juicy details when the player changes frets and slides on the strings.
The fullness in the lower mids offers good density to simple mixes with fewer instruments. If you listen to very fast-paced percussion or bass instrument intensive tracks you will need to make sure your output has high resolution and power to maximize its performance.
There is an abundant thickness in the tuning gives the mids a warm and energetic tone and a vocal position that is quite forward. Despite this fact, if you bring down the 500Hz region you will immediately find the tuning to be much more natural, coherent, and clearer in positioning. In turn, the vocals will sound much less intimate.
The Volans is sibilant free and sufficiently extended to not sound boxed in with rock or older live recordings. The higher frequencies are carefully rolled off to keep some brilliance and air while being rounded at most times, and it never gets hot nor feeling suppressed. There is a good effort in polishing the treble whilst not hindering the extension or limiting its openness.
With a balanced connection or silver cables, you will notice the treble open up a bit more and the bass more controlled. While there are still details in the overtones the key focus is obviously directed to the midrange due to the thickness. Again I would recommend pressing down the 500Hz region a bit to give more balance to the tonality.
On the 3.5mm terminated stock cable the staging is rather roomy with a bit of thickness in the midrange. Equalizing down the mid-bass will release a lot more room and push back the vocal to form a much more expanded stage especially in Z-axis.
The vocal separation is decent and no matter the vocalist has a lighter or deeper voice the vocal track is nicely separated from the backing track. The softer and more forwarded bass with a slower decay may hamper some resolution but I find it more engaging at times with Jazz and slower, more expressive tracks.
The treble roll-off is carefully designed to retain overtones/harmonics and air such that the perceived soundstage is not congested sounding even when sparkle is taken out. If you switch to a balanced terminated cable you can feel the staging more opened up with better tonal balance and more micro details in the mids.
To test the synergy with different gears I have some USB powered DAC amps and some stronger sources.
iPhone 6 Plus
Starting with my iPhone 6 Plus the Volans can be driven quite loud and you can hear some good potential to bring out more detail in the bass when you step up the power.
There is a clear emphasis on the midrange, powerful kicks are detected and the tuning is a good match for lossy pop streamed on YouTube/Tida for example Alan Walker & Ava Max Alone, Pt. II (Live at Château de Fontainebleau), and some other bass/percussion intensive tracks I used to test with.
Although loudness is sufficient the Volans does struggle to sound firm and balanced so I would pair them with a device that is able to offer a bit more power.
HiBy R5 Saber
Paired with the Hiby R5S on high-gain the Volans is much more dynamic sounding than using the iPhone as both amp and source.
The bass attack gets tighter, snares are more punchy, snappy and the vocal image sounds swifter. The mids still have excessive forwardness to me but it is more a character than a flaw when there is sufficient power and gain in the output to bring up more treble.
There is good weight in the vocal body and with higher-pitched vocals, it has a very distinct image, nicely rounded with breathy details. The tuning is a good match for pop and streaming content which is sometimes thin in sound, also piano works that are very dynamically presented.
With balanced cables you will hear the staging opened up more and the control better when more instruments go into the mix, the tuning also gets more linear and the treble slightly more extended.
HiBY R6 2020
On the Hiby R6 2020 with stock settings, it is quite a good match with the warmth in the Volans and R6’s treble power complementing each other.
The vocal gets slightly more distanced with the stronger output and the staging expands wider with more detail in the treble. Powering up the MSEB panel you can adjust the thickness of notes at ease, or add space between instruments and to add more control to the mix.
I can pretty much confirm the Volans matches quite well with mid-higher end DAPs that are less colored. It also scales well with higher output power also outputs that are textured in the lower register.
With the Shanling M8 that boosts a lot more power in the output and some enhanced density in the mids, the Volans is maxing out its dynamics and power. The overall output is swiftly articulated and the mids are very densely textured, powerful at the same time.
Despite the fact that the Volans can be driven quite well on smaller outputs like the R5S, on a stronger output the headroom is greatly enhanced. It sounds a lot more natural, extended, and controlled.
Using a balanced cable connection the honky bit in the vocal performance is now more refined sounding and the bass is very full and effortlessly deep.
The Janus has a stronger M-shaped signature and requires more power to sound linear when compared to the Volans. It has an agile bass response and meaty, powerful mids when there is sufficient driving force while it is delivering more treble than the Volans.
With the stock cable on both IEMs, the Janus has more bass in the output, though it is not as resolving and controlled as the Volans. I find the Janus to best match with Cantopop and some other tracks with strong reverb or nasal tones. Also, older folk songs synergize well with the Janus and pretty much a quality analog kind of sound signature.
In stark contrast, the Volans is more linear sounding, as well as more genres friendly with a wider range of music and with different vocalists.
The Volans is also a lot better in isolation since the Janus has back vents. If you do not have stronger DAPs the Volans will have an advantage over the Janus but if you possess a lot of higher-end IEMs and are looking for a niche tuning that is very smooth and creamy in the midrange, the Janus could be a more suitable pairing.
The ME700 is Shanling’s flagship Hybrid IEM with 4BA and 1DD, a smooth performer in vocals with a tube-like sound signature.
The ME700 pursues engaging, lively sound instead of emphasizing clarity by lifting the treble. This has some similarities to the Volans which also has good roundness in the treble though not as strong as the ME700.
Putting them side by side the Volans is easier to drive sounding punchy and firm. The midrange is more intimate and forward with a clearer mid-treble performance that gives Western voices more authority and a firmer, more 3D image.
The ME700 on the other hand has a more linear bass performance and unveils more sub-bass detail, requiring more power to drive but more comprehensive in its performance.
It also has more magic with Oriental tunes, especially ones from the 70s/80s which includes old Cantopop and Japanese songs that have more nasal colorings and reverbs in the mix.
Overall, the Volans matches modern streaming content better with more openness and better articulation. It is easier to drive than the ME700 but the ME700 is superior in resolution and low-end detail.
At $330 the Volans has a solid, sleek, and light-weight built with a streamlined full metallic design. The brass elements embedded align with the rich midbass experience and the Volans can be powered efficiently by a wide range of sources, scaling well with stronger output to sound even more dynamic and controlled.
My previous experience with Astrotec earbuds and IEMs is quite a contrast to what I hear on the Volans this time and it is a delight how they delicately designed this mid centric tuning that is not confined in staging, extension, and clarity.
The design is also very tweakable and pairs well with different cables. If you love focusing on fingerpicking/string plucking details on acoustic instruments, and prefer clear and forwarded vocals with a slight hint of warmth you are going to love the Volans.
Astrotec Volans Specifications
- Driver Unit: 10.5mm Tesla Dynamic Driver
- Impedance: 32 ohm
- Sensitivity: 110 dB/1mW
- Cable: High purity OFC cable
- Cable Length: 1.2±0.03m
- Plug: 3.5mm stereo gold plated plug
- Connector: MMCX
- Frequency Response: 8Hz – 40000Hz