I/O AUDIO VOLARE Review featured image

I/O AUDIO VOLARE Review

In this feature, Thomas reviews the I/O AUDIO VOLARE, which is a new tribrid 8mm dynamic, quad BA, and quad electrostatic driver universal IEM. It is priced at $599.

Disclaimer: This sample was sent to me for my honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or status. I thank Shenzhen Audio for their support

To read more about Shenzhen Audio products previously tested on Headfonics click here.

Note, that this article follows our latest scoring guidelines which you can read here.

I/O AUDIO VOLARE Review featured image
I/O AUDIO VOLARE Review
Summary
The I/O AUDIO VOLARE is a stellar set of universal IEMs at this price point, and I cannot recommend them enough. The design is visually appealing and wonderfully constructed, the accessory kit is outstanding, and the unboxing experience is very premium. Most importantly, the three driver types used were implemented in a refined and exceptionally competent manner.
Sound Quality
9
Design
8.8
Comfort & Isolation
8.8
Synergy
9.1
Slide here to add your score on the gear!33 Votes
8.7
Pros
Technical performance that hits well above this price point.
Impressive integration of three driver types.
Premium unboxing experience and accessory kit.
Cons
Vents pick up lots of wind noise when using the VOLARE outside.
Bass is lacking texture
8.9
Award Score

I/O Audio is a new brand, coming out the gate strong with their debut VOLARE universal IEM priced at $599 SRP.

The VOLARE is a tri-brid universal IEM with a single dynamic, four balanced armatures, and four electrostatic drivers inside. The use of mini electrostatic drivers, and four at that, is not common at this price point given the technology is relatively expensive to implement.

In addition to the unique driver configuration, the VOLARE contains some other features and tech that make it even more impressive than it already is.  And the VOLARE is impressive, as will be discussed throughout this review.

I/O AUDIO VOLARE shell shape

Features

I/O Audio’s VOLARE is packed with tech, not the least of which is the impressive driver configuration. Inside are four Danish-made Sonion electrostatic (EST) drivers, four full-range custom BA, and a custom 8mm dynamic driver.

The 8mm dynamic driver diaphragm uses a birch wood dome with a silicone rubber surround, reminiscent of the 11mm dynamic in JVC’s FW1000.

The quad ESTs are a special addition, dedicated to handling the high frequencies. Typically reserved for kilo-buck products, it is rare to see them, and four at that, in a $600 earphone.

The four BA drivers are a new design. Compared to traditional armatures, they rely less on the frequency division from crossovers to achieve the intended frequency response.

The dual-crossover structure of the VOLARE is complicated and uses a four-way electronic crossover in tandem with a three-way physical crossover, the latter of which can be seen in the design of the nozzle. This combined crossover tech is intended to maximize the specific benefits of each driver type. 

Design

I/O’s VOLARE has a universal fit shell with a style of curvaceous design that has become exceedingly popular over the years among products at a variety of price points. The distinct flourishes applied to this new model help ensure it stands out.

The faceplate has a bold design with organic veins crisscrossing deep within the thick resin. A neat touch is that on the left you have a silver I, and on the right a silver O, floating within the upper left corner of each faceplate near the cable ports, helpful for distinguishing which channel is which.

The main body of the earphone is attention-grabbing thanks to VOLARE being printed in fine gold writing and the liberal use of silver metallic flakes that fade in and out of vision as you tilt the earpiece. It looks truly spectacular in person and isn’t something you can properly capture in an image.

The nozzles are 6.7mm around the prominent lip, slimming slightly to 5.7mm down the rest of the shaft, which is great for accommodating a variety of third-party tips. This is slightly larger than the 5-6mm I consider the average and is necessary to accommodate the three sound ports within.

On top of the VOLARE, set just behind some vents, are slightly recessed 0.78mm 2-pin ports. This design allows the use of various third-party cables without any significant fitment issues.

The quality of HeyGears’ 3D printing is outstanding, with zero faults or blemishes to be found. Everything is smooth and flawless and appropriately matches the strong visual appeal of I/O’s design.

I/O AUDIO VOLARE nozzles

Comfort & Isolation

The shapely design of the VOLARE is exceptionally ergonomic, naturally conforming to the outer ear. The housings are silky smooth and free of any sharp edges to cause discomfort or hotspots.

They are also light because of the use of resin. As such, they are earphones I can wear for many hours at a time, only needing to take a break to protect my hearing, and not due to fitment issues.

Despite a large vent present on each earpiece, isolation is quite good. This is an earphone I can comfortably listen with outdoors and in loud areas at near my normal volumes, without the need to increase the volume significantly to counter outside noise.

The vents do pick up a ton of wind noise though. Keep in mind that on windy days, your listening experience will be compromised.

The only thing that might cause discomfort is the cable as the 8 strands split into 4 per side leading into the earpieces, resulting in thick guides that go up and around the ear. This thickness plus the weight of the cable could disrupt some users.

I/O AUDIO VOLARE ear tips

Tips

VOLARE comes stocked with a wide selection of tips which, except for the foam set, all use high-quality silicone. While the shafts are quite thick, the silicone on the flanges is thin and flexible which may stop some from achieving a consistent seal.

I didn’t have issues with any of them though, and preferred the ST50 which feels the flimsiest of the bunch thanks to the thinnest silicone and tiltable shaft, ala. SpinFits various tips. It still provided a great seal and sounded the best, with a similarly deep bass to the TT55 small-bore.

The ST50 also provided an excellent soundstage, on par with the TW43 wide-bore. Unlike the TW43, it didn’t bump treble to retain a more balanced presentation.

The TW45 medium-bore set is the best all-rounder since they don’t bump bass as much as the TT55 small-bore or bump treble like the TW43 wide-bore. They don’t open the soundstage like the ST50 though, which puts them a level down for my tastes.

Since I can barely stand to use foam tips, I’ll leave impressions of the F49 wide-bore foam tips to the community.

Overall, a stellar selection of stock tips, with bi- and tri-flange options being the only thing missing. I would love to see I/O revise this accessory kit to include them in the future, as it would make an already outstanding selection even better and ensure listeners of all varieties are catered to.

I/O AUDIO VOLARE stock cable and 3 plugs

Stock Cable

The cable is an 8-strand, oxygen-free, copper, silver-plated unit with a swappable plug system that includes a 3.5mm single-ended plug, and 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced options.

I found the locking mechanism for the plugs an inelegant option and ended up sticking with the 4.4mm balanced option to avoid having to interact with it.

Once the keyed portions of each segment were lined up and the selected plug installed, the locking collar felt redundant given how tight and stable the fit was without it.

Add to that threads that didn’t move smoothly, and the collar getting stuck on the individual cable strands, and it all felt unrefined.

The cable uses a 0.78mm 2-pin system instead of MMCX, a major positive for some potential buyers. The left 2-pin plug isn’t as secure as it should be though, resulting in the earpiece detaching unexpectedly on a few occasions.

The rubberized sheath covering the 8-strands is slightly bouncy but behaves quite well. Cable noise is minimal with a chin cinch to reduce it further, tangling is a non-issue, as is memory retention.

Finishing

The finishing for the jack, splitter, chin cinch, and earpiece plugs are mostly metal and feel very durable. There is no strain relief to speak of at the jack or splitter, but the thickness of the cable makes this a non-issue in my experience.

The preformed ear guides leading up to the earpieces are nicely molded. They keep the cable securely behind the ear, even during aggressive movement.

Lastly, and entirely subjective, the cable doesn’t fit with the design of the earpieces aesthetically and looks like it belongs to a different product. The plain matte and glossy black/ gold color scheme is at odds with the earpieces’ sparkly grey /black aesthetics.

I/O AUDIO VOLARE accessories

Packaging & Accessories

New brands need to make a good first impression, and where better to start building those impressions than with the packaging? After sliding off a standard exterior sheath containing the usual data, the experience becomes much more premium.

Taking a page from the Leica X Vario’s unboxing, opening the cube reveals a large carrying case and three drawers in which all the accessories are housed. The bold carrying case demands your attention, so we’ll revisit it momentarily.

Drawers

The first drawer contains the cable and various adapters. The VOLARE includes 3.5mm single-ended, 4.4mm balanced, and 2.5mm balanced plugs.

The second drawer contains an extensive collection of ear tips in five styles: TW45 medium-bore single-flange, TT55 small-bore single-flange, TW43 wide-bore single-flange, ST50 medium-bore single-flange with tiltable stems, and F49 wide-bore foam tips.

The third drawer contains a ¼” adapter, cleaning cloth, VIP card, warranty card, QC certificate card, and a manual. The manual is more useful than most, going over basics like installing the ear tips, using the cable and various plug adapters, and how to wear the earphones, while also including maintenance tips to prolong the life of the VOLARE.

I/O AUDIO VOLARE in a case

Carry Case

Returning to the case, I’m of two minds as to how I feel about it. On one hand, it is beautifully built and thanks to extensive padding and snug cutouts to hold the VOLARE’s earpieces, it will do an outstanding job of protecting them from harm.

On the other hand, you cannot remove the foam cutouts, meaning this oversized case can only hold the earpieces. There is no room for the cable, nor can you drop the earpieces into position with ear tips installed.

The case is gorgeous but completely impractical. This oversight is disappointing for a top-tier unboxing experience including an outstanding accessory kit.

Click on page 2 below for my sound impressions and recommended pairings.

Click on page 3 below for my selected comparisons.

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