Some things stand the test of time: Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, Highland Park 40 Year Single Malt, and the Audio Technica ATH-IM02 in-ear monitors. So I’ll forgo the Highland Park, cue up some jazz, and give these earphones a listen – all to let you know just what kind of beast we’re dealing with.
The IM02 is built like a tank, with a horn-shaped conductor pipe (an “Acoustic Horn” as AT puts it), as well as a mid-high driver and woofer driver – all supposedly for better bass and high mids. There’s a removable cable that plugs directly into each earpiece, a bunch of eartips (including memory foam ones), and a snazzy little carrying case.
The cords feature a pliable rubber design that neatly hugs my ears, offering a secure fit not unlike other high-end in-ear monitors.
With a low impedance of 35 ohms and a modest frequency range of 20-16,000 hertz, the true beauty of this headphone is, like the devil, in the details. On paper the whole earphone may come off as a middle-of-the-road model offering a modicum of detail. Without an insanely wide frequency range, it still manages to pull off an intense sound – one with impressive clarity and decent separation, helped along by a good low end and fantastic mid-range detail.
With a good if not overpowering bass, and the mid range well represented, the sound is contrasting and articulate, with a sense of definition. Isolation is fantastic as well, easily giving me the impression these headphones are sharp enough to cut myself on.
In comparison to other models, they seem a little more relaxed than Westone offerings at a similar price – whether the Westones sound harsh, or the Audio Technicas sound soft is up for grabs. In comparison to Shures, the Audio Technica may seem just as articulate, but with better build quality. They seem like a close contender with the Sennheiser IE80, but at $50-$100 less, I’ll take the IM02.
Compared to Audio Technica’s own IM01 ($149), the IM02 has a more dynamic and bassier sound, giving me the impression of a richer experience. If your preferred sound is a little more subdued, you could save some change and opt for the IM01.
Is there any reason to not check out this headphone? If you’re all about the bass, skip this model and look elsewhere. Despite a woofer driver, the sound still seems very even and nowhere near bassy. If you’re looking for insane high-frequency detail, also look elsewhere. But, if you’re looking for an in-ear monitor with an even and articulate sound (if a little bit on the dynamic side) that won’t destroy your bank account, definitely keep this one in the running.