Last year, we reviewed Audio-Technica’s acclaimed IM02, a favorite of audio enthusiasts which has, unfortunately, since been discontinued. We were excited to learn that the company has two new lines of IEMs, bearing the CRK and LS model designations. Today, we’re taking our first look at AT’s “Live Sound” IEMs, the ATH-LS200iS, and we think it’s an excellent successor.
The LS200iS feels like an evolution of the IM02 in almost every way. We like the IM02’s see-through gray housings, but we love the LS200iS’ new red housing, which lets us clearly see its dual balanced armature driver configuration and delicate internal wiring. The LS200iS’ new A2DC connectors are a big improvement over that of the IM02 and the MMCX connectors we more commonly see on IEMS — the A2DC connectors are easier to use than the IM02’s connectors and make a more positive connection than MMCX. Like the IM02, the LS200iS comes with four sets of silicone ear tips and a carry case, but the new zippered ballistic nylon case is much roomier, allowing us to carry along a second cable or Bluetooth receiver. The stock 1.2-meter cable is fairly basic (and a little microphonic), but features a one-button control pod and moldable over-ear guides. We found the LS200iS easy to wear; they’re extremely light and, despite their vaguely trapezoidal shape, fit nicely in the outer ear.
Audio-Technica describes the driver configuration in the LS200iS as a “super-tweeter” paired with a “full-range driver.” Balanced armature drivers are not well-known for producing deep and powerful bass. We have seen other companies attempt to straddle the fence by pairing one or more balanced armature drivers with a dynamic driver, to varying degrees of success.
After listening to the IM02, we think this configuration — and the conspicuous lack of a dynamic driver — shows the company’s priorities with this headphone. Though the LS200iS extends low enough, and its bass presentation is clear, bass is clearly not the focus here. Instead, it seems that midrange takes center stage with the LS200iS, making them feel much more neutral and balanced than most IEMs we come across these days. We might have detected slight roll-off in the presence/definition frequencies, but not enough to make the LS200iS sound dull. This is a wonderfully fast and articulate headphone; we had a great time going through our music collection just to hear what it could do.
Audio-Technica has done extremely well with the LS200iS, improving on its predecessor in nearly every way. The LS200iS is easily one of the best rock/jazz headphones we’ve heard in a long time and, though not quite tuned to maximize the fun of bassy electronic music, we generally prefer a balanced presentation for maximum versatility. And did we mention how good those transparent red shells look?
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