After a few years of dedication in shaping the Indonesian Custom in-ear monitor (IEM) market, Avara Custom decided to launch Avara NEO, the world’s first pair of truly customizable universal in-ear monitors (UIEMs).
Being an avid audiophile, the owner of Jaben Indonesia (an audio retailer since 2009), and the founder of Avara Custom, Alvon spotted the need for improvement in Indonesia’s audiophile market – a locally made, customizable and affordable line-up. Since then, he has been researching and developing custom IEM (CIEM) markets in Indonesia.
With his experience in retailing many major brands of headphones and IEMs in Indonesia, he truly understands the features necessary for a pair of well-received earphones – from sonic performance to physical appearance.
Avara Custom is his proposed solution to improving the Indonesian market – providing affordable CIEMs to musicians and audiophiles. His idea was well-received locally and he even took it one step further – presenting the brand to global platforms. His creativity does not stop here. Avara Neo, the first truly customizable UIEM is another approach from him to cater those with stricter budgets.
Customization is no longer a privilege only for those with a deeper pocket. Everyone can customize with enablement from Avara Neo. Let’s take a look at my pair!
- Customizable faceplate
- Solid build quality
- Good clarity in terms of sound signature
- Excellent fitting
- Can be easily driven
- Accurate bass response
- Breathy and spacious mids
- Well-extended and controlled highs
- Highs can be too sharp for those with lower treble tolerance
- Higher mids can be shrill in some tracks
The unboxing experience for Avara Neo is pleasant and colorful. It comes in a purple paper box. On top of the box, there is the tagline “The First Fully Customized Universal Earphone from Indonesia” – the fact that makes Avara Neo special.
Opening the box, users will find a quality control (QC) card to prove that this particular pair of IEMs is checked before shipping. Besides that, there is a brochure included in the box to explain the uniqueness of Neo to new-comers. Underneath, there is a semi-hard zip case.
Opening the zip case, I found my customized Avara Neo. I will elaborate more on the design and customization process later in this article. The stock cable and ear tips are included in the case, too. Very simple – no flash in terms of accessories provided. You receive what you require. There are three pairs of different-sized silicone ear tips. A braided, four wired 3.5mm unbalanced terminated cable is provided as the stock.
- Driver configuration: Single dynamic driver (lows) and single balance precision balanced armature (BA) driver (highs) with true crossover
- Input Connector : 1/8” (3.5mm), Gold Plated
- Impedance: Unknown
- Frequency Response: Unknown
This is all the information that I managed to find on Avara Custom’s official website.
I have some experience with online IEM builders for various brands; but Avara Custom provided one of the most user-friendly. Customization is rarely that easy!
The customization process is as easy as “abc” – simply visit IEM builder on Avara Custom’s official website and choose your country’s currency.
There are several faceplates you can choose from to make your IEMs unique. Some of them are complimentary, while some “premium” faceplates are an additional charge. I chose Glitter Yellow (right IEM) and Glitter Purple (left IEM) for my faceplates. It cost an additional USD$14 per side. I also requested to insert artwork on both sides of my IEMs which cost USD$7 per side. After the process was complete, the final amount charged was USD$82.
USD$82 for customized hybrid IEMs – not that expensive, right? Customization is no longer a dream for entry-level audiophiles.
I was impressed by the build of Neo upon receiving them. My design was transferred to Neo flawlessly – a memorial for the late National Basketball Association (NBA) superstar, Kobe Bryant. I inserted the “Black Mamba” logo and the Kobe Bryant Memorial logo on each side of my Neo. The purple and yellow faceplates indicate the colour of Los Angeles Lakers (LAL), the team that Kobe played for.
This is my last respect to my NBA idol. Rest in peace, Kobe. We will remember you, forever.
The overall physical appearance shows Avara Custom’s maturity in offering CIEM services. The shell is in a custom-like shape, which offers good isolation. The build is, indeed, excellent. It does not give me the fragile feel that an entry level Chi-Fi normally offers.
Avara Neo utilizes a 0.78mm non-recessed 2-pin connector. This makes cable rolling an easy task. I’ve been playing with different cables during the review period. The nozzle is in a single bore with a metal grill design. The bore is slightly wider so tips rolling might not be as easy as cable rolling. Fortunately, the stock ear tips are high quality. I didn’t need to explore other alternatives to provide a better fit.
The stock cable is a four-core braided cable as mentioned in the unboxing section. It’s machine braided, so it’s neat and firm. There is minimum microphonics as the cable is soft. Avara Custom’s logo is printed on the 3.5mm unbalanced jack. There’s a strain relief to improve the durability of the cable at the jack. Moving up, the cable comes with a heat-shrink ear guide which helps the cable to stay behind users’ ears.
Fit and Isolation
With a custom-like shell, Avara Neo gives me an above average isolation. The high quality silicone ear tips provided in the box helps to block out most of the noise from surrounding sound. I was using it as my commuting companion in this review period. I was able to submerge myself in a sea of music without being affected by the hustle and bustle from this busy city.
There is a vent on the internal side of the shell to address the dynamic driver flex. This is a smart design by putting the vent on the internal as opposed to the external side because it minimizes outside noise.
To provide an accurate analysis on sonic performance of Avara Neo, I paired the stock cable and ear tips with one of my current reference digital audio players (DAPs), iBasso DX220 which is loaned to me from Zeppelin and Co.
While I can’t find information on its impedance and sensitivity, based on my pairing with DAPs and smartphones, Avara Neo is an easy-driven IEM. You don’t need a powerful source to make the Neo sing. This further makes it a suitable model for entry-level audiophiles who mainly rely on smartphones as music sources.
Sound Signature and Soundstage
The sound signature of Avara Neo is on the brighter side. It has a very detailed presentation. The attack and decay speed are fast compared to other models within the price range of USD$100.
This makes Neo unique because the general tuning trend in this price range is to make the IEMs as fun as possible – to the extent that details can be compromised. A lot of them are in the V-shaped sound signature.
The soundstage of Neo is average for both the X and Y-axis. On the X-axis, the presentation can be too forward and aggressive in some of the tracks. This could cause some fatigueness. The depth and height is sufficient, but I would appreciate it more if it could extend more on both sides – having a more three-dimensional stage. The current profile is linear.
The lows of Avara Neo are lean. It has a fast attack and decay – faster than most dynamic drivers. This yields a very accurate and precise presentation. This could be one of the highest quality basses that I have experienced in the USD$100 range; I’m impressed by its precision! The sub-bass has a good extension; it punches energetically.
The kick disappears fast – it’s touch and go.
The mid-bass is shy compared to the sub-bass. This tuning makes space for a smooth transition from lows to mids with minimum bleeding. Avara Neo is precisely tuned – every note stays in the respective frequency spectrum.
To analyse the mids of the Avara Neo, I will separate it to two significantly different portions – lower and higher. The lower mids are polite and shy, having the same profile of Neo’s mid-bass. Those male vocals with lower pitch sound recessed. Despite being recessed, the presentation is still of high quality. They sound breathy because of the space created from the shy mid-bass. It’s not congested in this spectrum.
Moving to the higher mids, it starts to be more energetic compared to the lower mids. Female vocals sound forward. Listening to Adele, Neo delivers the presentation just as if Adele is singing right beside you. However, it might be a little shrill. I prefer to have a distance so I can feel the whole stage.
Despite the positioning being a little forward, the female vocals sound sweet and airy. Adele’s vocals are produced accurately even in high frequency; the extension is managed well.
The highs of the Neo are the star of the overall presentation. They sparkle and shine. However, it is at the line between being too bright and just right. It could cause some fatigueness for those who have lower tolerance towards highs. The highs have a good amount of energy and it’s more forward in terms of positioning compared to the lows.
Neo is able to produce guitar pluckings and cymbal crushings accurately. The presentation is very lively. It has good extension and is well-controlled. There is no distortion in the roll-off. This is a deal breaker for a lot of entry level IEMs, where the roll-off of the highs is not properly managed, causing distortion. This, again, makes Neo a strong contestant in this price range.
The Avara Neo is a great choice for entry-level audiophiles who are looking for affordable and customizable IEMs. I’m happy to see that customization is now accessible to almost everyone in the audiophile industry. I hope to see this feature become more and more accessible to all audiophiles – no matter their budget.
The customizable faceplate is definitely not the only unique selling point of Neo. A unique tuning that focuses on details makes Neo a strong contestant in the price range of USD$100. Avara Neo is retailing at USD$40 and customization will be charged separately based on the chosen design. You can purchase it from Avara Custom’s official website.
With the launch of Avara Neo, the expectation for a sub-USD$100 IEM is raised. I expect more from other manufacturers now. Neo is the new benchmark for this price range.