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When we’re listening to music with headphones, we vastly prefer in-ear ’buds, for their ability to dampen outside noise and allow us to listen to audio at lower volumes. It’s not very rock ’n’ roll, but we’ll take being able to actually hear Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade well into our eighties over blowing out our eardrums while rocking out any day. And—like Bourbon and computers—we feel strongly that a decent pair of headphones is something worth spending a bit more on to get the good stuff.
Rather than relying on circuitry and power to electronically cancel out noise—think Bose and others—in-ear ’phones like the Atrio work well because they seal off your ear canal, allowing you to listen to your music without being overwhelmed by exterior noise like the construction crew down the block or the overactive HVAC system in your office.
Atrio comes with two pairs of soft rubber ear tips in two sizes, as well as foam tips, which some users might find more comfortable. There’s also an option to order custom eartips molded from your own ears. For ease of use, we preferred the rubber tips, and they also didn’t block outside noise as completely, which isn’t a bad thing if you use the earbuds in public, where someone might occasionally need to get your attention. Swapping out the tips was easy, and we appreciated that Future Sonics also includes a looped cleaning tool for clearing ear gunk out of your expensive earbuds (no one likes to talk about it, but yes, in-ear earphones can quickly get pretty gnarly, no matter how clean you keep your ears).
The sound quality of the Atrios was excellent, ranking alongside some of our favorite models. Treble was crisp, without falling into the trap of being overly bright. The midrange was solid across the volume range, and more importantly, the earbuds offered a deep, satisfying bass bump, even at low volume levels. We tested Atrio with everything from MGMT’s computer-aided psychedelia to the delicate strings of Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté, which the earbuds handled with equal aplomb. Clearly Future Sonics’ years of building in-ear monitors for musicians has been put to good use. The four-foot cable is of a slightly thicker gauge than some other ’phones, and overall, the build quality seemed quite sturdy. Atrio comes in rather uninspiring blue, red, and (strangely) beige, as well as a basic black. While they won’t be winning any awards for style, the sound quality speaks for itself.
For rich bass, Atrio is one of our favorite in-ear models. They’re an investment for sure, but they sound fantastic. We just wish Future Sonics would offer an iPhone version with a mic and inline remote.