Headphones are subjected to a demanding and rigorous daily routine when used on stage. In order to do their job, they should be of a suitably robust design. The use of comparatively delicate in-ear monitors seems at first glance to be incongruous, yet they are designed to be inconspicuous during the performance. However, if the equipment in question is to meet the demand for neutral sound reproduction and high output volume, the limit is quickly reached. But when an old hand in the audio industry takes on the task, we can only be curious about the result.
The US company Audix was founded in 1984 by Cliff Castle and Fred Bigeh. The manufacturer’s product portfolio includes a wide range of different microphone types and accessories for various applications. These devices are characterised by high-quality design, robust manufacturing and good sound. Audix products are developed and manufactured in Wilsonville, Oregon. After 37 years of professional experience, the manufacturer has now produced its first in-ear headphones for professional stage use. To be more precise, there are two models: the neutrally tuned A10, to which we devote this article and the sister model A10X with a more pronounced bass range.
Daily stage use demands that tasks are completed quickly in the heat of the moment, and equipment is frequently treated in a less than gentle manner. However, robustness and durability alone are not enough. Being a live musician is strenuous, and the equipment used requires a certain resistance to moisture as well as effective external shielding so that work can be done at a permanently low level to protect the ears. If too much ambient noise enters from outside, you have to compensate with a higher playback level, and the ear is exposed to an unnecessarily high level of stress. Above all, differentiated, high-resolution sound should ensure a good result for in-ear monitoring.
These headphones are delivered in a black storage box, whose magnetic closure tightly seals the interior, which is filled with solid foam. The construction gives you the impression that it was designed for years of transport. Included are the headphones, a sturdy transport case, four different-sized pairs of silicone attachments and a small manual with the most important information about the A10.
According to the manufacturer, these headphones have an injection-moulded housing that looks light and robust. The smoky-coloured yet transparent housing is shaped to fit the ear cup and has colour coding for the left and right sides on the inside. With the help of the silicone ear moulds, which sit tightly on the ear tube, individual adjustments can be made quickly. The result is a pleasantly tight-fitting pair of headphones with very good damping characteristics.
The connecting cable is securely connected to the housing via MMCX connectors and can be rotated 360 degrees, allowing easy placement in the ear. The last 10 cm in front of the MMCX connector is reinforced with a wire wrap, which allows for individual adjustment to your own needs. The adequately sized 1.5 m cable merges after about 50 cm in a firm silicone coupling. A sliding eyelet, also made of silicone, is attached in front of the coupling for more precise fitting and adjustment of the individual cables leading from the ears. The end of the robust but easily adjustable cable made of silver-plated, oxygen-free copper terminates in a 90-degree angled gold-plated 3.5 mm mini-stereo jack – unfortunately, an adapter to the 6.3 mm format is not included in the package.
Technology and sound
The A10’s full-range dynamic driver uses a low-mass voice coil and a titanium-alloy cone. According to Audix, it is characterised by low distortion and phase-coherent reproduction. The frequency response of ten octaves is identical to the A10X, and uses a composite beryllium diaphragm.
Thanks to the effective passive damping, the A10 allows you to concentrate fully on the sound. The sound sources used in our test were a preamplifier with a well-designed headphone amplifier (Funk MTX Monitor), a smartphone (Samsung Galaxy7) and the powerful headphone amplifier of the RME Fireface UFXII.
The difference compared to the A10X is in the bass range. However, this should not be misunderstood. The A10 delivers deep bass with neutral tuning. Only those who can and want to hear gravitational waves are likely to be bothered by the lower limit of 18 Hz on the measurement sheet – bear in mind that the lowest note of a grand piano is the subcontra-A at 27.50 Hz. So this is about the tuning in the overall sound. The basses are reproduced tightly and with contour throughout. Classical listeners will particularly appreciate the basses, which are not overdone because they are consistently clear and do not sound boomy. This creates a deep “listening insight” into the double bass section, in which the necessary space is always reserved for the mid and higher frequencies.
The midrange responds by presenting the instruments and their articulation in a detailed and spacious manner. There is plenty of room for sound development, provided the sound is mixed appropriately.
And where the upper notes blend directly into the atmosphere, you can almost feel the sound haze being reproduced. The harmonics bubble out of the diaphragms without strain, always fine and never shrill. All in all, the A10 offers a very well-balanced sound for fans of natural sound reproduction. Whether it’s classical music, jazz or rock – everyone will get their money’s worth here.
And just like the A10X, the A10 is impressive on stage due to its high external damping and the resulting ability to graduate the volume, which rewards even at low volumes with a balanced and powerful sound and conveys a feeling of being enveloped. However, listeners to classical music who like to isolate themselves from the outside world within their own four walls in order to immerse themselves completely in the music will find this unit just as enjoyable.
With the A10, Audix celebrates a strong entry into the highly competitive market of in-ear monitors. The unit is predestined for use on the live stage but offers both the sound creator in the studio and the audiophile listener at home a high degree of sound enjoyment. Stability, tight bass and a well-balanced frequency spectrum are just a few of the many positive features I came to appreciate in the course of our test. Considering the recommended retail price of 415 euros in relation to what is on offer, I firmly recommend the A10 without any ifs or buts.
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)18 - 19.000 Hz
- Impedance35 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)@1 kHz: 105 dB dB
- Cable length150 cm
What's in the box