disclaimer: The Astrotec Volans was provided by Hifigo for purposes of this review. I have received no compensation for this review, nor do I have any financial interest in Hifigo or Astrotec. To learn more about the Volans, see the Astrotec website. If you are interested in purchasing, see hifigo.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The Volans comes packed in a slipcover style box with a scene that looks like painted water or night sky on the sleeve. The sleeve front has the Astrotec name and Volans in silver along with a silver button that says POP in the upper right. Specs are printed on rear in Chinese and English. Removing the slip-cover exposes a black book-fold box. The manuals and warranty card rest on the top with a pelican style case in a foam surround beneath and a small box of accessories. The pelican case has a foam block with the earpieces and tips nestled in it on full display. Unfortunately, the earpieces had come loose during transit and bounced around freely inside the case. Putting another piece of foam over the earpieces or taping them down for transit would be advisable. They come with a small dual pocket bag for keeping the earpieces from getting scratched but if they already are by the time they reach the user, it is of little use. The kit consists of the eaerpieces, case, two pocket pouch, cable, velcro cable tie, cleaning tool, 1 set of foam tips, and 3 pairs of Sony style hybrid silicone tips. (Some documentation references Sony, others not so I cannot verify if they are Sony made or just made in that style).
The Volans comes in a what they call Galaxy blue (medium blue) or mint green (my sample). Both have a pronounced brass nozzle that mates with the driver to produce an all brass acoustic path from driver to ear. The nozzles are fairly short with a large lip for tip retention. Shells are 3 parts with anodized outer and inner shells and the previously mentioned brass nozzle. A seam is visible that runs through the mid-line of the shell but is well fitted with no gaps, slop, or fit issues. A single vent at the base of the nozzle is used to vent forward pressure from the driver. The rear of the unit is completely sealed though so isolation remains fairly good despite the fact that the volans sits more on the ear than in for me. The nozzle and inner shell sit in ear with most of the outer shell resting outside it. the mmcx connector exits the top-rear of the housing and makes the Volans a tip-up only affair. L/R are marked on the base of the mmcx connector on the inner side of the shell but can be hard to see as the white tends to disappear on the green background. The cable also contributes to comfortable wear (more on that in a bit). Shell size is slightly smaller than average with helps with comfort as well.
The Volans is as much about the shell as it is driver. This is always true to a degree but especially so here. Astrotec worked for quite some time to develop a brass internal and driver frame since they liked the sonic properties brass imparted. The thought being that brass is much more dense than aluminum and most other materials that are easy to machine. Brass is easier to cast and mill than steel but actually has a higher density than most steels as well. The combination of brass and copper frame components and high Tesla magnets give the 10.5 mm dynamic driver in the Volans a very unique design. Combine those with the multi-layer bio-composite diaphragm and you have the heart of the volans. Nominal impedance is listed as 32Ω with a sensitivity of 110 dB/mW which puts the Volans in a category that can be driven by phone, tablet, or dap fairly easily. I did find it scales well qualitatively with better sources, but does indeed work well when paired with phones or other limited-power sources.
The cable that ships with the Volans is silver plated Oxygen free copper in a clear casing. At the southern end it uses my preferred style 90º housing in brushed aluminum with gold plated 3.5mm single ended jack. A proper strain relief is present at the exit point of the jack and a velcro cable tie is provided. The cable itself is a 4 strand braid that is fairly tight in weave from the jack to the splitter. The splitter is also a brushed aluminum barrel similar in style to the jack housing, and a clear plastic chin slider is provided above that. Wires exit the splitter as 2 strand twists again in fairly tight twist. The northern ends have pre-formed hooks followed by aluminum housings of about 1/2 normal size for the mmcx connectors. The right is labeled with a red ring around the housing for easy indexing. Most will dismiss the housing on the mmcx connectors but I really like it as fit is easier in my ear with that shortened connector housing. Now that I know its out there, I’ll look for more in that style. The casing on the cable has a greenish tint which gives the impression of oxidation and is an unfortunate choice here as many will mistake it for poor quality control when in fact they ship that color from the factory. I tried to capture that in the photos and think it shows to varying degrees with the 1st and 3rd more correctly showing it than the 2nd.
I did find the Volans to be somewhat tip sensitive and went through my Shure Olives, Sedna, Spiral dots, Comply Comfort-TS and sports tips, and finally found the Spinfit 100 to be my best compromise. For review purposes, I used the large Sony style tips to do my listening notes, but understand that the sound can be altered with a wider bore tip.
The sub-bass is quite good, which is not to say forward or emphasized, but more that it has good speed and texture while remaining in-line with the bulk of the signature. In reality, sub-bass is rarely the focus of a piece, that is what makes the boom of a kettle drum all that much more impressive and shocking when you do hear and feel it. The Volans gets this right for orchestral type pieces where the sub-bass should go unnoticed until that big moment but then deliver. Mid bass has a very mild elevation compared to the sub-bass but remains nearly linear and has good speed and texture was well . Decay is slightly slower than attack but still very quick when compared to a lot of other dynamic drivers which gives a bit of weight to the notes and helps lend a more natural tone than it would have otherwise. Honestly, decay could be slightly slower and it might even be more lifelike if it were. Transition to lower mids is super clean with no perceptible bleed or obstruction.
Lower mids follow seamlessly from the mid-bass and has good weight and tonality. After listening for a few minutes you realize how deceptive the Volans is. At first glance it is smooth, almost too smooth in its delivery, but under that is a world of detail that is really quite impressive. Male vocals have good presence but due to a bit of a push in the upper-mids/lower treble, they do sit a step behind their female counterparts. Guitar growl is not quite sharp enough for my tastes as the smoothness is evident here, but strings are the benefactors and are presented extremely well with natural voices and good transients. The push in the upper-mids is mild and avoids stridency but does lift vocals above the instrumentation quite nicely making the Volans a good choice for strings and choral / operatic pieces.
There is a very mild elevation to the lower treble that brings vocals foward, but is not enough to make the Volans sound overly energetic or strident. With the deluge of bright in-ears of late, it is nice to find one that balances the top end agains’t the lower frequencies in a way that makes it more fitting and natural. Voices cut through as you’d expect. but nothing more than that leaving a very natural voicing rather than an enforced push. Piano and strings again are the beneficiaries of this tuning while pop music may feel a bit dull as a result. Snare rattle has good speed but lacks a touch of that rough edge that it should and cymbals have no metallic click at all, but also fall just short of feeling entirely realistic. Detail is again well presented with more micro-detail than expected. Roll-off appears to start fairly early as there is a pronounced step back between 8 and 9kHz before the final roll-off begins closer to 14kHz. This gives the Volans a very polite tuning with no harshness to be found and those with treble sensitivity will really appreciate this tuning. Those of us without such aversion will find the Volans great with some genres (Opera, classical, choral, strings) and only adequate with others (pop, rock, blues, hip-hop).
Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage is a bit deeper than wide and all dimensions are moderate with a feel like a school auditorium rather than a cathedral or arena. What it lacks in dimension, it makes up for in above average instrument separation which makes seating the orchestra very straight forward. All positions are well defined and front/back and side to side are correct. Layering is also quite good and was on par with most of the multi-driver models in my compare which is a little surprising for a single DD. The drivers speed is really on full display in that regard. Imaging is reasonably good but the polite tuning of the treble keeps it from being pin-point focused. If EQ is used to enhance the treble region, imaging improves a bit but at the expense of that laid-back polite treble many will prefer. I had no issues with compression even when throwing fast metal at the Volans which is well outside its wheelhouse. \
The LZ A7 is currently the highest scoring in-ear in my rankings and honestly is probably in a near dead heat with the DK-2001 compared below. It comes in a kit with similar accessories to the Volans at a similar price point and also offers tuning options to suit the users desired signature. That makes the A7 more flexible than the Volans, but even with its most treble reduced filters, the A7 can’t match the Volans for smooth fatigue free delivery. The A7 is a better all-arounder while the Volans is a good option for those with a bit more treble sensitivity.
The 2001 is another current favorite of mine and runs roughly equal to the Volans in price. Shells are both metal and while the 2001 is a 4 driver hybrid 3BA +DD, the Volans is a single dynamic. The bass on the 2001 is about the same in extension as the volans but has more umphh and a more visceral feel than the Volans. Mids are good on both but strings are a bit more natural on the 2001 by comparison and micro-detail is better as well. Overall, the 2001 is a better all-arounder while the Volans is more of a niche product for those who are a bit treble sensitive.
I put the A83 in since they occupy similar price points. Honestly the price and the hard-shell cases are about where the similarities end. The A83 is part resin/part metal shell vs the Volans all metal construction. The A83 has more bass quantity but slightly less quality at the low end, and a good bit more sparkle and brightness at the top at the expense of perhaps being too bright at times. The A83 is a 2BA + DD hybrid while the Volans is a single DD. All in all, little in common and for me the Volans is a more pleasant listen and would get the call every time when choosing bewteen these too. The A85 has more in common with the Volans in tonality, but at nearly double the price it hardly seems a good compare.
Moondrop Blessing 2-
These two seem like an odd pairing at first as they share little in build (resin vs metal), little in internals (4+1 hybrid vs single dynamic), and even the kits are dissimilar with a soft case on one vs the hard case on the other. The two do share some similarity in signature though. Both are near neutral, both are fairly intimate as stage is concerned. The Blessing kind of feels like an amped up Volans with more energy in the upper-mids and treble. This gives the blessing a bit more sparkle and air at the top but the trade off is the Volans is smoother and more natural sounding. The Blessing 2 sounds a bit cooler and brighter when placed side by side with the volans. Again probably the most striking thing of the compare is the Blessing 2 doesn’t have a ton more detail when compared to the Volans even with 4 more drivers to produce it.
Here again, similar price, maybe not much else. Shells are all resin on the DM7 vs all metal on the Volans, internals are 6 BAs vs a single Dynamic and tunings are substantailly different. The DM7 is more textured at the low end, but also has less extension and sub-bass. Both are warmish near neutral signatures through the mids with the Volans being slightly more mid-foward by comparison, but the two really part company in the treble. The Volans is polite and laidback while the DM7 is borderline overly aggresive and can be a bit strident. Another thing worth noting is the DM7 has some hiss at times and needs an ie-match to perform equally as well as the volans does with those same sources. DM7 is slightly more detailed at the expense of more hiss, and a hotter treble. The volans is more polite but may lack a little top end for some by comparison.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
The Astrotec Volans has a premium feel and a small shell that sits mostly on rather than in the ear so should be an easier fit than many in the class that ride mostly in the ear. The kit is well thought out and includes most things end users will need (Short of a balanced cable), and the construction is first rate. Sound wise, the Volans offers a well balanced, well nuanced, smooth, and fatigue free signature that will make long listening sessions pleasant. The downside is that lack of fatigue is partially created by limiting the extension of the treble and partially by cutting the treble energy. The resulting IEM is a bit of a niche product. Those with treble sensitivity will want a volans for sure. Those that listen to a lot of choral music, opera, or strings will want a volans. Those that listen to a lot of hip-hop and EDM, maybe not as much as for some genres it may be a bit too polite. So, the Volans isn’t likely to be your favorite all-around in-ear, but it may well be one of your favorite niche in-ears for certain genres. I have mine in the kit with my Dethonray DTR1 because it has my Classical/Strings library on it. For that, its a great pairing.
- Bass - 7/107/10
- Mids - 8/108/10
- Treble - 7/107/10
- Soundstage - 7/107/10
- Imaging - 7/107/10
Pros: Great balance and mids, very polite treble for those with sensitivity, excellent kit
Cons: too polite a tuning for some, earpieces fell out of foam during shipping and got scratched.