In the same way that an artist’s concept sketches and first attempts at a finished painting take on their own personality and are collectible in their own right, they only have value because of the finished work.
The Aten, in its totality, is IMR’s finished work. From a generous package that upgrades several key components, a better looking and fitting earpiece design, an improved filter and nozzle system, and an across-the-board improvement in every aspect of its sound, this is the IEM Bob set out to make from the very first sketch. He’s taken this driver, now in its third iteration, as far as it can go, and love it or hate it, I believe this is about as good as it’s going to get.
Not only is the Aten a great IEM, it’s also a great value, fully justifying its $500 retail price (though you can get it cheaper as a B-stock from IMR or as a sale item on Drop from time to time). That it’s not a mass-produced product (only 300 units were made, not all of which have been sold at last check), only adds to its appeal.
Some will make a song and dance about issues that are totally unrelated to Bob’s current work or products, and I won’t harp on that here (you can Google it if spurious gossip is your thing). My own impressions of IMR and the man behind it are nothing but positive. Despite the fact that I felt the Zenith fell well short of the hype – and said as much in my review – Bob didn’t take my criticism personally, and instead invited me to try the Aten.
What I found is a boutique IEM that holds its own against much higher priced competitors. The IMR R2 Aten is very much the real deal – a perfect example of what can be achieved if you take a good idea and keep making it better and better until it finally reaches its true potential.
PS. One more thing. The Aten isn’t quite the end of the road for this design. Coming soon is a hybrid that combines the Aten’s dynamic driver with a crossover-less planar driver said to infuse the subtlety and microdetails that only a planar driver can produce. Called Rah, it’s another limited run product that’s all but sold out, and I’m hoping against hope that I’ll get a chance to review the next chapter in IMR’s sonic journey.Stay tuned!
THE HEADONIST VERDICT
Taking cues from the first two ‘prototypes’ that IMR released as the R1 and R1 Zenith, the R2 takes the hybrid beryllium and piezzo ceramic driver concept to its logical conclusion in a package that’s more refined, better made and, for the price, is easily the pick of IMR’s growing IEM stable. With some of the best bass I’ve experienced in any headphone format, the Aten delivers a powerful, detailed and exciting sound that’s hard to forget, full of emotion and natural energy. It’s unashamedly coloured and too far from neutral to appeal to the ‘purist’ audiophile, but make no mistake, if you enjoy what it does, it won’t leave you wanting for more. Highly recommended.
Feel and Fit
Sound Quality - Bass
Sound Quality - Mids
Sound Quality - Treble
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation