Editor’s Note: Not so much a rant; more bemusement than anything else.
Audio-Technica‘s new series of enthusiast-oriented IEMs was introduced a few months ago (last November) to great fanfare.
Other than the 50th Anniversary products (that included the ATH-CK100PRO) released a couple of years ago, it’d been a very long time since the Japanese audio stalwart last introduced a entirely new lineup of in-ear products.
For many enthusiasts, memories of the legendary ATH-CK10 still lingered in their minds, so when Audio-Technica came out with six new models, complete with a proprietary removable cable system and an utilitarian design language, people took notice, and expectations were high.
Interestingly enough, Audio-Technica decided to go in a different direction, sound-wise, with the new IM series of in-ear monitors.
These are not your older brother’s Audio-Technica earphones. The new series is warmer, smoother, and less peaky overall. Clearly, the “Always Listening” Audio-Technica has been responding to customer feedback, and the new lineup put Shure, Westone, and Ultimate Ears squarely in their sights. Over the past few years, western companies have launched a clear offensive on the eastern market — most notably, Shure has been launching all its major product announcements in Japan, while Ultimate Ears has opened up self-managed boutiques in China. The IM series was Audio-Technica‘s response — they clearly wanted to protect their home turf.
To ATH devotees, however, the new overall sound signature was met with mixed results. Users were concerned that Audio-Technica had lost its core sound — you wouldn’t want to eat your Rice Krispies if it didn’t have the snap, crackle, and pop, would you?
Out of the six new models introduced, the ATH-IM02 has gained standout recognition as perhaps possessing the best value of the bunch, by users commenting on forums and around the blogsphere. Users claimed that the IM02 was the airiest of the bunch, imparted the widest soundstage, and still preserved the Audio-Technica sound. They made it out to be the best thing since sliced bread.