In this Astrotec AM850 MK2 review, I’m looking at Astrotec’s upgraded mid-tier earphones. The AM850 features a 2nd gen 10mm Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) dynamic driver and interchangeable tuning nozzles. It’s priced at $169.
Disclaimer: This sample was provided by Astrotec for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Astrotec AM850 MK2 Review
The build on this IEM is fantastic but the sound doesn't quite justify the price.
The AM850 MK2 shells are made from aerospace-grade aluminium and have a smooth matte finish. They look and feel premium in the hand, giving a positive first impression when you take them out of the box.
The seam joining the 2 shell parts together is almost invisible and every edge on the earpieces is rounded and smooth. On careful inspection, you can see 2 small vents on the raised part of the faceplate. Another vent can be found near the base of the nozzles.
Included with the IEMs is a silver-plated OFC cable with MMCX connectors. All of the components are aluminium with a matte finish that matches the earphones. The cable is supple and handles well.
In terms of comfort, the AM850 MK2 is good. With its rounded edges and ergonomic shape, it fits comfortably in my ears and I don’t have any problems wearing it for long listening sessions. The passive noise isolation is below average but thankfully, there’s very little noise leak.
The AM850 MK2 is an efficient IEM and doesn’t require extra amplification. With that said, I find this earphone benefits from a warmer source due to its neutral-bright tonality. Even with the “Tide” filters attached, this IEM has a lean presentation with boosted upper mids and lower treble.
There are 3 sets of tuning filters included with the AM850 MK2. These essentially give you 3 slightly different sound signatures.
Air Gold (Treble)
Neutral Black (Standard)
Tide Gray (Bass)
While I appreciate the extra clarity and air with the Gold and Black filters, the treble is a bit too much for my preference. So I did most of my listening with the Tide Gray filters. However, as is often the case with tunable IEMs, the difference between each filter set is minimal at best.
The bass is tight and has slightly above neutral quantity. It’s a fast bass with good definition and speedy decay. Although it isn’t boosted much, the bass still has good weight but is definitely not near basshead level.
I would consider the sub-bass rumble to be fairly light but sufficient. The mid-bass has a moderate impact and is enough to get your toes tapping. Due to its speed and control, there’s little bleeding into the midrange. Overall, I find it a pleasing bass.
The lower midrange inherits some warmth from the bass but the clarity is fairly good. A large peak in the upper midrange brings electric guitars and certain instruments to the forefront. This sometimes has the effect of pushing back vocals, especially male voices.
A peak around 2kHz followed by a dip and then another peak at 5kHz makes the upper mids shouty on some recordings (even more so with the black and gold filters). It also gives snares and toms a nice clean attack but often borders on sharpness.
The AM850 MK2’s treble is detailed but uneven. It’s made up of a series of peaks and dips that have the dual effect of smoothing some parts while pushing others forward. The result is a treble that’s unpredictable; it might sound subdued on some songs and harsh on others.
I find it manageable with the grey Tide filters but not so with the Neutral and Air filters. With the latter 2, there isn’t sufficient warmth to counterbalance the highs and things start to sound splashy. On the upside, the treble has ample air and adds plenty of clarity to the overall sound.
Soundstage and Technicalities
The soundstage has above average dimensions. AM850 MK2’s sound is fairly spacious, especially with the Neutral and Air filters but when the crash cymbals and electric guitars ramp up things deteriorate fairly quickly into a glaring haze. The imaging is good and instrument separation is average.
The Astrotec AM850 MK2 is an interesting addition to Astrotec’s mid-range lineup. It has attractive, robust shells and the overall build quality is excellent. When it comes to sound, its performance is a little underwhelming for something in its price range. There is some promise of good things here but for now, I’ll wait and see if there’s an MK3 in the future.