Review written by Anthony Nguyen (@antdroid)
Audio-Technica is a brand that does not need any introduction. They’ve been a major player in audio for a long time and widely used in the recording, studio, DJ, and headphone industries. Today, we will look at one of their IEMs that probably doesn’t get as much attention as some of their other headphone products like the ATH-M50x and ATH-MSR7 over-ear headphones which are extremely popular.
My experience with Audio-Technica has been varied. I’ve owned several of their over-ears and clip-on headphones, but never really tried many of their earphones. I was never a fan of the M50/M50X sound. I found them too narrow and too forward for my liking. The MSR7 was very clean and maybe too polite. I also owned most recently, the S700BT wireless over-ear headphone which had a sound signature somewhere between the M50X and MSR7, and I thought it was surprisingly good, though not very technical.
But again, my earphone experience with this company was pretty much non-existent. Headphones.com and their Community Preview Program sent me a loaner set of the Audio-Technica LS200iS unexpectedly as part of a real loaner request I made for the Campfire Orion. Taron Lissimore, over at Headphones.com thought I would enjoy this IEM and therefore sent it along.
And for the most part, I do enjoy this headphone. Let’s take a look!
Accessories & Build Quality
The Audio-Technica LS200iS is a $249 in-ear monitor that comes in a translucent red color that really stands out in ample lighting. It glows with excitement and is extremely light. The package comes with a detachable cable, a carrying case and several tips.
The detachable cable has A2DC that I’ve never seen or used before. It’s a miniature coaxial style connector that seems to be only used by Audio-Technica for their IEM lineup. Unlike most IEMs available today, this cable does not have any flashy braided or silver look. It looks like a generic audio cable that is not much different than bargain bin cables you find in your local store except for the connectors. As this is marketed with the “I” designator, this cable does have a mic with controls for play/pause on it.
In general use, I found the cable to be a horrible pain to use. The cable gets easily tangled and is messy. The connector is very easily rotated around, so it doesn’t lock into position like a 2-pin cable would. MMCX cables also have this issue, though not as bad. The cable also has a memory wire feature which is supposed to retain the shape for easy, secure placement of the product each time. In reality, I found that I constantly had to adjust the cable each time I used it and even during use.
The LS200iS fit was also challenging, which could have contributed to my cable wire issues too. The IEM is small and very comfortable, however, it’s shallow fit made it hard to keep it securely mounted in my ear. I have had the same issues recently with another IEM I’m reviewing – the Whizzer AE-03 Kylin.
Once secure though, we can talk about sound.
In general, I found the LS200iS to have a pleasant coherent and semi-forward neutral sound. There’s nothing that seems exaggerated in its frequency response at all, and nothing that truly sounds recessed. It seems quite diffuse-field neutral to me.
The bass levels on this IEM are generally linear and have a very clean approach to it. It doesn’t sound cold, and not warm – it’s just lean and analytical. In comparison to the Campfire Orion, I find that the LS200iS has just a touch more warmth to it, but it steers very clear from any elevated mid bass hump and therefore does not have a lot of impact or punch.
The mids are very smooth and coherent. Male and Female tonality sounds accurate and present. The mids are just slightly recessed, but do not sound loss or compressed. Treble on the LS200iS is also steady and extended. It does elevate a little bit on the upper end, but never sounds harsh or sibilant.
I also found the soundstage width to be medium, meaning I don’t feel like I’m in a big open space, but I don’t also feel like I’m in the middle of traffic either. Imaging is good and accurate.
I am getting to this point where everything sounds just about right, and that’s a pretty true statement. The LS200iS, overall, sounds good. It doesn’t have anything that makes it go WOW! or anything severely lacking either. It’s, in a way, a little boring, because everything sort of sounds the way they should.
Campfire Audio Orion
I covered a comparison of the two when I did my original review of the Orion, and not a lot has changed since I’ve put more ear time on the LS200iS. I find the Orion to have slightly better soundstage and coherence, but in general I’d rate the LS200iS better in overall sound due to its slightly better bass response and extended treble, both areas that are improvements upon the Orion.
In terms of build quality and accessories though, the Orion trumps the LS200iS in spades, with better cable, case, and selection of tips and other goodies.
The BGVP DMG has steadily been one of my favorite $100-200 price range IEMs since I got it and I find it’s fun factor very appealing, while still retaining good coherent mids and treble extension. It’s a V-shaped IEM that does it tastefully. The LS200iS is definitely more neutral, with more linear response across the board. The mids will be a little more prominent on the LS200iS and has a more analytical sound in comparison. As like the Orion, the DMG build quality and cable trump the LS200iS.
Noble Audio X
I purchased the Noble Audio X a while back, and most of these impressions will be based on memory, so take it with a grain of salt. The Noble Audio X had a more popular sound signature with a large mid bass hump that seemed a bit bloated and in made the rest of the mids sound a little compressed and lacking. The LS200iS does not have this problem, as it’s bass response is tight and clean. For two IEMS priced similarly at $249, the LS200iS is a much better IEM in terms of technical sound and overall pleasure for me personally. The Noble X does have a nice included cable and I liked the metal look of it.
Massdrop Plus IEM
Like the Noble X, this was a purchase from a while back that has since been sold, so take my memory-based impressions with a grain of salt. The Massdrop Plus is quite a steal for the price. It was advertised as a ER4-like sound signature like the Audio Technica LS200iS, but more elevated bass. It does give more impact in the bass, which can be a good thing or bad thing, depending on what you like. I ended up getting rid of it because of that, and I also didn’t really need it at the time. From memory, I found the Massdrop Plus to have good detail and wider sound stage than the LS200iS.
I found the Audio Technica LS200iS to be a very good sounding in-ear monitor product that had a good natural clean sound, but also missing a little bit of exciting factor. That doesn’t mean, it’s not enjoyable to listen to though, as it still is, and produces good clean music. I did have some issues with fit and a janky cable that made keeping a consistent seal, and listening experience challenging. This could vary from ear to ear, of course, so your miles may vary.
- Anthony Nguyen (@antdroid)