As one of the 1st gen Chi-Fi brands, Astrotec has been hanging around in the audiophile industry for quite a long time now. Some may have not known this as their reputation gradually faded as they’ve shown fewer activities until recent days while new brands arose. Though in recent years, Astrotec started to be active more than ever by introducing Lyra Nature, Volans, and the flagship Phoenix. Continuing on their comeback, Astrotec has recently announced several more IEMs including their new flagship – the Phoenix 6. Being a tribrid IEM priced at $1599, this is the most high-end product ever released by Astrotec as well as becoming the first tribrid IEM released by them. Let us now put their flagship to the test, see how it’s tuned, and compare it to the flagship rivals.
The Phoenix 6 comes in simple yet elegant enough packaging. Interestingly enough, an engraved titanium cube is sitting with earpieces placed on each side. Besides the earpieces, Phoenix 6 includes 2 stock cables (3.5mm/4.4mm), a leather hard case, 2 pairs of foam tips, 2 pairs of tri-flanged, 3 pairs of bass silicone tips, a mesh bag, 3 pairs of vocal silicone tips, velcro strap, and warranty card. While the outer sleeve is nice, the inner box packaging could’ve been higher in quality as it’s rather flimsy even if it was for a budget item. The eartips are quality ones. the bass tips give good tightness to the sound and fit. Vocal tips are very soft and comfortable than ordinary ones (possibly identical to Whizzer VC20 eartips). The hard case is well-built with mesh attached inside. The storage size is still somewhat small for comfortably storing the IEMs, however.
The Phoenix 6 adopted a full titanium alloy body with a sandblast finish, topped with turtle shell-like faceplates which is Astrotec’s latest house design. At first the design somewhat felt plain but the more I use I slowly began to appreciate its subtly elegant looks – the universal grey looks with dimensional faceplates that create different shades of grey. While the former Phoenix (or Phoenix OG) used 1DD+2EST for the drivers, the Phoenix 6 made a step forward and adopted a 1DD+1BA+4EST setup. The proprietary large dynamic driver takes care of the lows, the Sonion BA does the mids, and the 4 Sonion electrostatics plays highs and ultra highs. Connectivity is done as traditional nonrecessed CIEM 0.78mm 2pin connectors. The inner part of the housing is ergonomically done with a smoothly concha-shaped design. Nozzles are in average diameter of T400-T500 that will fit with most ears and eartips. Overall, the earpieces are designed and built with a lot more premium vibe and wholesomeness than the Phoenix OG, plus the improved fit.
The stock cable is done quite nicely. Phoenix 6 comes with 2 cables – one with the “Hi-Fi” specs and the classic stock quality for the other. The Hi-Fi cable uses a 4-braided, Silver-Plated high purity OCC cable with a 4.4mm TRRS plug termination. It has a decent thickness to it but nothing close to being thick or heavy. All components are made with brushed metal with rose gold highlights, giving more color to the appearances. The classic cable comes in an ordinary SPC cable with TRS 3.5mm termination that is light, thin, and extra smooth. The sound is relatively less richer and full than the Hi-Fi cable, which gives me the thought that it would’ve been better for Astrotec to simply include a single Hi-Fi cable but with a modular plug feature. Keep in midn that the 2pin conectors are also done as non-recessed, which nicely fits into non-recessed IEMs like Phoenix 6 but not compatible with recessed 2pin IEMs.
Sound impressions: Lows
Phoenix 6 has a rich, W-shaped sound signature that highlights musicality and liveliness. Some may consider lows from EST IEMs are just there to play along with the treble finesse, though that isn’t the case here. Phoenix 6 has one of the finest bass presentations I’ve enjoyed from hybrid designs, let alone single DDs. They might feel “normal” at first glance but once I slowly tune into its bass the natural attractions start to appear. Some IEMs do their bass crispier or softer than reality. Not that it’s bad, but that’s their tuning direction and people prefer whatever they want, so such tuning serves their purposes. In the case of Phoenix 6, it desires realism – making the bass presentation feel closer to reality. That may sound plain, though the charm of such tunings is more powerful than some may think. It’s like eating natural foods instead of eating artificially flavored ones. Such realism is done by keeping organic tone, brightness, and temperature. If you like biting into those crisp bass textures, Phoenix 6’s bass might feel too tender. But then again, it’s far from being soft, so I doubt people would find the bass texture too soft.
Another highlight, which is actually my very favorite of Phoenix 6, is the bass damping. The elastic drum slams are detailed and much realistic that it almost feels like I could sense the diaphragm of the drum plays. Phoenix 6 keeps the bass amount that perfectly suits the word “rich”. Not overwhelming nor lacking. Phoenix 6 is also very good at bringing weightiness to the lows without slowing the tempo, offering a nice pivot for the overall sound. Unexpectedly, both ultra lows and upper lows show calmness and tightness, so it doesn’t get really bombastic or boomy. But then again, the profound heaviness that oozes from the low-end gives more than decent dynamics. Reverbs are kept just adequately for keeping the sound both clean and full.
Sound impressions: Mids
Mids take a mild step forward from the lows but are not entirely detached. There’s a smooth transition from lows to mids that make them harmonious. Tonality is spot-on with a natural timbre, being slightly more tasteful and colorful than the lows but still very neutral. It’s a type of tone that highlights sweetness and creaminess from the vocals. Temperature is neutral-bright based on warmness that brings out shine to the upper end. Though what I’d compliment from Phoenix 6 is its beautiful layering. This seems to make the vocals not only expand spaciously but also get precise in distancing. By doing so, much more details and textures are retrieved from the vocals – compared to flat-sounding IEMs. Of course, flatness also has its merits so this comes down to the preference of each own.
For thickness, it’s slightly meatier than neutral, giving well-established bodies to both male and female vocals. It’s just a quality tuning as vocals stretch stably throughout the range without turbulence or sibilance, plus the vocals are spotlighted with maximum harmony. Besides, the vocals of Phoenix 6 are packed densely, so it doesn’t feel hollow like some hybrid/tribrid IEMs may sound. The vocal’s dynamics and thickness well live up bass response, so vocals always stay prominent and clear. Textures are smooth while retaining the grains.
Sound impressions: Highs, etc.
As expected from the EST drivers, Phoenix 6 makes fine strands of treble detail and texture. Because of Phoenix 6’s harmonious desire, trebles are highlighted only to an adequate amount, not being excessive or lacking. Trebles sure are better highlighted and plentiful in quantity to live up with the low-end dynamics, but highs don’t really become the main role here. The main role is rather the vocals – or just all three frequency bands as the sound is just very well balanced overall. It would be reasonable to say that P6’s highs are meant to complement the rich low-mids with technical EST details. Highs create a decently open-ended airiness that makes the treble instruments spatial. Brightness is slightly cooler than the low-mids but just by a margin. Phoenix 6 seamlessly keeps a fatigue-free environment, yet interestingly the sound never gets boring or dull.
Lows are now even better than the OG Phoenix in the sense that they sound tighter. Lows are overall better controlled as well as improved clarity for the sub-bass. The bass slams are also tighter which makes P6’s low-end to be cleaner and organized. It’s also less bombastic and boomy than the OG Phoenix. Not that it’s bad, yet this change is ideal for those who prefer a more neutral-focused signature.
The Phoenix 6 definitely matured from the OG Phoenix for the mi-range as well. Compared to the OG Phoenix, the P6’s timbre is more organic and refined, breathing in more air and naturalness to the vocals. The Phoenix 6 manages to reveal finer strands of details, as well as the additional Sonion BA mid-driver kicks in to seamlessly connect the low and high ends. Needless to say, P6 has also improved in treble details and upper expansion since the quad EST drivers. Though as said above, the OG Phoenix’s ‘smooth yet detailed’ nature continues in the Phoneix 6, revealing these details in a completely non-fatiguing manner.
The Solaris 2020 quite resembles Phoenix 6 in terms of the overall vibe – a lukewarm, extra rich, and w-shaped sound signature. While these are in just about in the same league, I’d say the Phoenix 6 takes the lead in performance. Phoenix 6’s mid-range consists of more density and energy, making the vocals sound more lively. The vocals are also fuller and thicker in the body (while staying neutral). The P6’s lows are no exception too, being better pronounced with clarity and extension. Separation is also superior in the Phoenix 6, being cleaner in controlling the instruments and the three frequency ranges.
Wrapping up, these two are quite similar in nuance yet Solaris 2020 behaves more like a single-driver IEM by focusing more on the harmony and consistency of the sound while Phoneix 6 highlights each different type of driver but makes a seamless fusion with each other. If you’re into single DD or planar IEMs, Solaris 2020 may be more ideal yet if you prefer multi-driver IEMs or detail-focused IEMs, Phoenix 6 would definitely serve you well.
Verdicts: The significance behind it
There are just too many IEMs being released which makes them just more of the same. I also got more numb on experiencing new IEMs because of that, yet the Phoenix 6 turned out to be an excitement that I haven’t seen for a while on this price range. With its unique tonal taste, the Phoenix 6 plentifully expresses the strengths and charms of three driver types but all while keeping them unified and harmonious. It’s a bold maturity not just for the Phoenix series but also for Astrotec themselves as they’ve now finally begun building their product identity. Since the significance (as well as the significant performance jump from the Phoenix OG), I’d even say that the Phoenix 6 is worth having an independent name instead of being a sequel to the Phoenix lineup.
If looking for a flagship IEM below $2k, with confidence I’d recommend Phoenix 6 as a hard-to-go-wrong choice. Even though considering the flagship price tag, it is surprisingly well-made while it is Astrotec’s first tribrid IEM as well as their most high-end product.