PROS: A neutral sound with a faithful reproduction of instruments, excellent vocals, very musical, solid build quality, nice selection of accessories, excellent value.
CONS: Treble a little rolled off.
I would like to thank TP Audio for providing me with the Aurora IEMs in exchange for my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review.
Aurora spec at a glance
- Drivers: Single Balanced Armature
- Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz
- Sensitivity: 118dB SPL/mW
- Impedance: 5.8 Ohm
- Price: US$350
TingPod or TP Audio… “Who?” I hear you ask. Yes, that was my reaction too when I was asked if I wanted to have a closer look at the Aurora IEMs made by TP Audio. The Chinese company based in Shanghai is a very new company, so new in fact that I could not even get their website to work for me and as far as I was aware they only had the one IEM available in a universal form. However, I soon learned that TP Audio would be making the Aurora available as CIEMs through the Singapore-based store Euphoria Audio. Knowing Euphoria as a store with a very high standard and equally high-end gear, I naturally became curious how this brand new company had been able to convince them with a US$350 single BA IEM. Not that I doubted that single BA IEMs at a reasonably affordable price could be really, really good because I had just reviewed the Custom Art FIBAE Black. Still, could the new kid on the block make an entry for itself that would leave a lasting impression?
I got in touch with TP Audio’s Alvins Chi, who kindly sent me over some promotional material that provided more details on the company and the Aurora IEMs. As I understand it TP Audio combines the skills of a number of different experts with the aim of developing high-end IEMs that can compete on the global market, with the Aurora being their first entry. It was not until I received the Aurora and gave them a quick listen that I appreciated just how serious these guys must be because, spoiler alert, it is one heck of a first entry. In my honest opinion, the Aurora offer the complete package from great sound to a great fit to a great selection of accessories… Well, review done. Can I get back to listening now? Oh okay, I will do it properly. *sigh*
Joking aside, I have genuinely been enjoying these and they sit firmly in the ‘outstanding value’ category. So for the more sensible audiophiles among us (read: those who prefer the use of both their kidneys over new audio gear) the Aurora are another very interesting option to consider, so read on to find out why.
The Aurora come in a big box with the sort of styling that has been adopted quite widely in the industry these days. The box has a sleeve with the Aurora prominently displayed on the front. On the back are listed the specifications of the IEMs and images of six other color options (a combination of shell and faceplate color), making seven in total. Generally the colors have clear names such as “Mango” for yellow and “Lime” for bright green, but I did get a bit confused by the distinctly blue color of “Cabbage”. Can cabbages be blue? I should probably know this being a biologist and all, but I spent more time in the lab than I ever did in the field. In any case, it is a very nice and fresh (Sea?) blue color. Not on the box, but in the promotional image I received were also shown the three color options for the cable: black, white and blue, the latter matching the “Cabbage” IEMs to perfection. (Okay, I’ll shut up about the vegetables now.)
Opening up the box reveals the IEMs displayed very handsomely above the included grey leather case. Inside the case was a bag of tips (3 sets of silicone and 3 sets of foam tips in total, a micro fiber cloth, and a cleaning tool with a magnet that attaches it simply to the top of the lid. The case itself is great. I have seen these types of cases floating around a lot more these days and they are very convenient. Finally the box contained a user guide and TP Audio logo.
Build quality and fit.
The promotional material states proudly that the shells were formed based on data collected from 4,000 individuals with 600 hours of comparative data analysis. So naturally I was highly skeptical because marketing materials are, well, marketing materials. It all has to sound flashy and deeply impressive, but my ears are ruthlessly critical… I often spend the first week just trying to find the right tips for a secure fit. Well, not this time. I popped them in with the medium silicone tips that were already installed and I have not changed anything since. For me these have pretty much the best fit I have experienced outside of my CIEMs. It is so incredibly comfortable. No doubt that it varies from person to person, but for me this is a superb fit.
The build quality feels very good, it is a solid feeling shell that is very smooth and the clear acrylic used for the shells is really clear so it gives a great view of the single driver and wiring. The Aurora use MMCX connectors and the cable is a very nice and supple one based on a thin gauge 8-wire configuration with solid feeling aluminum parts. The cable does have ear guides, but thankfully no memory wire. I am not sure what material the guides are made of, but I have not had many problems with it, even though I can get quite painful skin reactions from some PVC-based ear guides.
Overall the Aurora have been a joy to use and I have worn them for very long listening sessions without any issues to speak of.
Usually I stick to one main source for reviewing and maybe a few other sources to provide some insight into how the IEMs scale, but with the Aurora I ended up using three different sources quite extensively. My main review DAP these days is the Cowon Plenue 2, a neutral and detail-oriented DAP with outstanding technical strengths, with which the Aurora sounded incredibly good. However, I also spent a lot of time with a more affordable (but still high quality) DAP, the FiiO M11, which has a slight brightness to the tone. With this pairing the Aurora sounded a hint less natural and lacked some of the transparency they got with the P2, but ultimately I greatly enjoyed this pairing. The most musical pairing was with my “old” Astell&Kern AK70, which is a slightly warm/natural DAP and I really loved this pairing. A bit smoother and better transparency than with the M11 (though not at the level of transparency of the P2), and a hint more warmth than with the P2. All listening was done with the stock cable from the Single Ended (SE) out.