Audio-Technica SonicPro ATH-IM02
With the notable exception of musicians’ monitors, earphone marketing is slowly moving past the “more drivers = better sound” mindset. Rewind six or seven years, though, and most higher-end IEM were using at least two balanced armature drivers per earpiece.
This shift is the result of many factorsperformance improvements, market saturation, perhaps even an increase in more objective headphone reviews. Either way, the days of a dual-armature earphone being a technological marvel are long past. Great sound quality is timeless, however, and the best earphones from that era often still sound very good today.
Enter the Audio-Technica ATH-IM02, a modern re-imagining of a dual-BA earphone, complete with a contemporary ergonomic form factor and an aggressive, value-focused price.
The IM02 shares a musician’s monitor-style ergonomic housing design with Audio-Technica’s other IM-series monitors. Compared to Shure and Westone, the leaders in the professional in-ear monitor segment, the Audio-Technica shape is a little thicker, but also has a slightly smaller in-ear footprint that will allow some users to get a better fit. Aesthetically, the IM02 is also similar to other monitors, featuring dark gray semi-translucent plastics and black faceplates.
Like other musician’s IEMs, the IM-series models are comfortable and secure-fitting. The cable has a “memory wire” section near the earpieces, which holds its shape to help the earphones stay in place. The memory wire portion of the IM02 cable is rather long, but has just the right amount of “give” to still be comfortable and easy to use.
The cable is detachable and utilizes a two-pin connector with a very secure snap-in mechanism. The connector is proprietary, but compatible cables, surprisingly, don’t cost an arm and a lega basic one can be found for less than $20 on eBay.
The stock cable is smooth and sturdy, and terminated with an L-shaped plug. The cable connectors at the earpieces are color-coded: red for right and black for left. One minor nitpick, I found the tactile channel markera raised dot on the left-side cable connector intended to make the left earpiece easier to identify in the darktoo subtle to be of use.
The IM02 comes with a nice rectangular zippered carrying case, 3 pairs of silicone tips, and a pair of comply foam tips (it takes *500 size Complys). Unlike the case included with the much-pricier Audiofly AF180, the Audio-Technica case is small enough to fit in a pocket, which is always a plus. Noise isolation is very goodabout on-par with other universal-fit stage monitors and more than sufficient for general use.
All in all, the IM02 really doesn’t break any new ground when it comes to accessories, design, comfort, noise isolation, or build quality, but offers more than enough of each to hold its own against any other pro IEM on the market. The last two pieces of the puzzle, sound quality and value, discussed on the next page.