What’s in the bag?
Before we get to the sound, though, let’s look at the overall package, because that’s changed too – and for the better. The Aten comes housed in a large canvas-type hard shell zip-up case, with the different accessories and earpieces securely wedged into custom foam cut-outs.
Along with the earpieces you get a large selection of silicone and foam eartips, so you’re almost guaranteed a good fit out the box (although I always recommend buying aftermarket tips anyway). Like the Zenith, the Aten comes with two cables – one terminated with an angled 3.5mm single-ended connector, the other 2.5mm TRRS – an absolute must at this price point. Unlike the Zenith, however, both cables have been given a major upgrade, with custom-made single crystal braided copper and conveniently shaped arches around the ears, and are of much higher quality than the thin, rubbery cables that were included with the R1 and Zenith.
The new filter system means two sets of aluminium filter holders are now included as standard, instead of just the one with the Zenith. Whereas I felt that the Zenith left me wanting a little more in terms of package quality for the price, the Aten does not. Perhaps the inclusion of a smaller case to house just the earpieces and cables would be welcome, but the larger case is small enough to be portable.
Fit and comfort
There was always something a little odd about the shape of the Zenith that made them just a bit too unwieldly when worn. Though the steampunk look was ‘cool’, the Zenith’s twistable knob (used to open or close the port behind the drivers) meant the overall look was not only bizarre, but made it all but impossible to use them lying on your side or under a beanie or hat that covered your ears.
The Aten, in comparison, eschews the twisting knob and cover for a stainless-steel mesh grille that not only looks more appealing, but also takes away the nagging desire to constantly open and close the port to find the ‘perfect’ sound. Surrounded by a yellow gold frame, the Aten is more Bumblebee than Mad Max, and in a good way too. It’s immediately more modern and stylish, looks far less conspicuous when worn, and even though not the smallest fit-wise, I can comfortably lie down with them and almost forget they’re there.
Some of the sharper edges of the Zenith earpieces have also been smoothed over, and the slightly longer nozzle (a result of the new two-part filter system) means it’s easier to get a good seal without jamming the earpieces into your skull. Along with the round-the-ear cable guides that make a big difference to the ease of fit, I’d say the consistent improvements make for a much better experience than simply the sum of the new parts.
Sound impressions follow on Page 3…