Aurorus Audio Headphone Loaner Tour

Hey,
The Borealis arrived today by UPS and they sound great. I’ll get a review together as soon as I run them through a bunch of songs tonight and hear how they do with some EQ and in Destiny 2 for spatial qualities.

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Photos too please, if allowed. Would love to see some pics of how they look.

No problems with posting photos if people choose to.

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Hey, I’m going to pull back from headphones a little and step out of the tour. Thanks.

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Australis

Setup:

My standard PC rig is Roon and HQPlayer with Schiit Bifrost 2/64 (recently Wandla GSE) and Ferrum Oor/Hypsos.

I also listened portably on a Fiio M11 Plus LTD about half of the time.

Comfort, Fit, Finish:

Feels very lightweight and practical for wearing long periods of time. The steel wire frame appears as though it would be quite delicate, but apart from some front-to-back play it’s sturdier than it seems. My head size is rather average, and I used these just above the lowest band position (pictured below). There is enough clamping pressure to stay where they need to be while sitting at the desk, though trending loose for wearing during more active situations such as cleaning around the house. The cups are circular, so the edge sits on my earlobes rather than around them. Due to the light clamp, it’s been a non-issue.

The headband is thick and comfy. The extra heft of the cushion does cause the headband to be a bit floppy since the nylon connecting to the frame is tapered and narrower. I think a bit of extra rigidity would be nice, perhaps by using the wires as an additional connection point for the nylon.

Small detail, but ergonomically speaking, I really like that the cable connectors are situated toward the back of the headphones. Most of my collection (e.g. Utopia, HE1000, Atrium) place the connections at the front, and I find that this sometimes produces a bit of “cable dangle” where they project out toward my chin before curving downward. Australis by comparison projects the cables comfortably just in front of my shoulders while still allowing full range of motion.

The look is industrial. A no-nonsense headphone’s headphone. There are no fancy patterns, embossing, or painting. It’s spartan but handsome. The elevated suspension produces a bit of a Doctor Who Cyberman look when wearing similar to (as a particularly egregious example) an Abyss1266.

Sound:

It’s been quite a while since trying a proper closed back headphone. My personal collection is exclusively open back because I love the benefits to soundstage and am fortunate enough that my music being audible to others is not a concern. Notably, there is some sound leak at higher volumes despite being closed back due to the light clamp pressure discussed above. While the stage on Australis is certainly intimate, it doesn’t feel overly claustrophobic or “in your head” as an IEM would. It performs quite capably for imaging of individual instruments even in particular busy tracks (such as “Penrose Tiling” from Max Cooper).

Tuning is warm with rich mids and a quite a bit of treble recess. Vocals and instruments like guitar, saxophone, or drums sound excellent. The treble downslope is overall smooth, but I find it could benefit from a slight bump without going overboard. Songs with bright instruments such as the harp in “Verbena Tea” from Jon Hopkins’ Late Night Tales mix lack a bit of the metallic sparkle I’m used to hearing on slightly brighter headphones—a quality which I find is more accurate to hearing these instruments in person. Bass impact is quite good, remaining in balance with the rest of the headphone without being aggressively rumbly/tooth rattling (though I suppose some EDM enjoyers may be looking for that type of quality). Bass roll off seems quite mild and is likely helped by this being closed back. I’ll be curious to see how Borealis compares in this regard.

Summary:

Overall, I agree these are very smooth and very pleasant. I see these as a great option for long listening sessions when working at a computer, studying in a library, or in a shared office environment where bothering others may be of concern. In particular, I found the ease of driving these made them an excellent candidate for portable listening on my Fiio, and similar devices ranging from a refurbished iPod, Questyle M15, or even a classic Apple dongle would be more than adequate without sacrificing much from a more powerful desktop setup.

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I received the Australis model. So its currently with me. Some lint and white fibers on it, but other than that looks in perfect condition. I have it for a week from now.

I received them on the loaner tour and had a week of using them exclusively, with and without equalizing. I didn’t read any other reviews or look at frequency response charts first. They were powered on a Topping A70Pro and E70 9028Pro (5 volt mode) stack using an optical USB cable and powered hub for a really quiet noise floor.

Quick summary:
Comfortable and good weight distribution.
Good stock, but excellent and worth the price with the Audiosciencereview equalizer profile.
Easy to drive, but needs a mild amplifier for preamp reduction (1 watt @ 32Ω).

Fit and design:
The first impression was I thought they were missing the grills, but then found out it’s in the design, probably for acoustic reasons. I do wish they had something like the Arctic airflow edition grills which would really finish them off if it didn’t affect the soundstage.

They are comfort kings, the wide soft headband really makes them feel light, but pretty bulky. Also the pads are the first perforated design I really like. I’ve tried several and they always curb the treble too much, but these pads don’t have that issue. Probably because of the cloth pad face and just perforated on the sides. Much better than any Dekoni fenstrated sheepskin pads which make the treble sound muffled.

The headband looks pretty easy to remove for cleaning with the screw right there. I wish the attachment strip was a little more rigid so it wasn’t so floppy because of the size. Also if there was another set of guides further up before the frame bends, it would help them feel more stable. The cable is single ended and a ribbon type, which is literally tangle-proof and feels like it’ll last. It’s not so long you’ll roll over with with a computer chair, or so short you’ll get clotheslined standing up to answer the phone. I should have measured the pads to see what else they could fit, they really got it right. I do wish the headband pad had a Velcro attachment so could be easily removed for cleaning.

Power requirements: Easy to drive, the A70Pro/E70 never left low gain, even with equalizing with a preamp reduction. I had a Hifiman HE6se at the same time and it was really clear how far technology has come. With these, a JDS Atom stack or similar will be fine. It’s all about a quality source and black noise floor, any stack that can do 1.5 watts into 32 ohm and you’re all set.

Sound, detail resolution, and soundstage:
When I first heard them, they reminded me of the original Hifiman Arya for the sound profile with the climb from 500hz to 2khz that can make female vocals sound present but a little too bright depending on the singer. Ellie Goulding, Cyndi Lauper, Sia tracks were more obvious, where you could hear the emphasis sounding a little too sharp pm the highs. The 5khz peak needs to be shaved down a little, which is easy. The bass was just right for me since I play Destiny 2 a lot and prefer a bass rolloff in explosion rich environments. For music it takes some bass boost, but don’t get too greedy as bass distortion can be an issue with too much (I used half of the Amir’s ASR profile).

Without equalizing them, I was happy but they needed some tweaking. I went over to the Audiosciencereview and Amir did a really good job working out an EQ profile based on the measurements he did.

I loaded them into APO/Peace and it was a dramatic change for the better. I just cut the bass boost in half, since they’d be use in games as well as music. If they were tuned this way out of the box, they’d a better than many kilobuck headphones on the market today. I think the soundstage is right at the limit, since it sounds natural and accurate as well as large enough.

Gaming was really good out of the box, and even better when loading Amir’s EQ settings with half the bass boost. I mention it since at this price point, having one pair that can do everything well is really important. I’ve had several much more expensive headphones and would not trade these for the Heddphone or Audivina.

Value for money and final thoughts:
At $899 it’s competitive, but the Hifiman Arya Stealth fixed the original version tuning, and it’s stiff competition. If they had the tuning of the Amir’s Audiosciencereview EQ profile, they’d be a home run. The other things are minor like a thinner headband pad that’s clip attached or Velcro for cleaning, and a set of Arctic style grills for a polished look. Buyers at this price have balanced amplifiers, it should come with a balanced cable set, or even better a multikit with different plugs to stand out in a crowded field. Also a nicer branded case like the Audeze one would help sell at this price point. If you equalize them, they’re worth the price.

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Just received the Borealis in fantastic condition. Gonna listen for a few days before giving full impressions but I’m already impressed with the dynamics.

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Just a quick FYI, the headband pad is removable and is attached with velcro.


A picture I took of the norhtern lights

Wanna start this post by thanking everyone at Aurorus for sending me the Borealis. I got them in the mail on Sunday and I’ve spent a few hours every day since listening to them and comparing them to a few select headphones from my collection.

First the Build. The first thing that I noticed about the borealis is the uber utilitarian design. The cups felt incredible in my hand, but unfortunately the headband really disappointed me. It never felt flimsy in any way, but the separated wires had a habit of twisting in my hands in ways that I wasn’t a fan of. I also felt the clamp force provided left something to be desired, although if I owned the unit I’m sure I could bend it slightly to get the clamp force I wanted. Other than the headband, I was underwhelmed by the cable but I also didn’t have any particular problem with it. It was functional, although a bit short, but on a headphone like the Borealis I feel like most people will just get a cable they prefer anyways.

My initial impression of the sound was that it was very Focal like. A hearty amount of dynamics with a lot more bass than I was used to - especially on an open back. Although I don’t have a pair to directly compare against, they reminded me a lot of the Clear MG that I got to demo extensively at a wonderful audio shop in Dallas. But in the same way I wasn’t fond of the Clear MG, I wasn’t a fan of the signature of the Borealis. (This is probably a good place to say that my preferences most likely won’t match yours.)

BASS
I want to start my impressions with the bass of course. My reference for bass quality is the Campfire Audio Vega, and the Borealis reminded me a lot of the Vega in some ways. The bass was a bit looser than I would have preferred, but it never got muddy and never overwhelmed the rest of the mix. I thought the bass detail was good and I was very impressed by the texture the drivers were able to reproduce. Listening to songs like Afterthought by Joji or GOD by Kendrick Lamar the tonal balance and impact felt very fitting. The bass extension was impressive, even with songs like Late Night Tip by Three Six Mafia feeling full. Overall, I thought these were very well suited for Rap and EDM albums.

MIDS
Immediately the upper mids stood out as a bit too forward for my preference. I didn’t like the way vocals were pushed forward in the mix, and the lower mids ended up sounding off between the elevated bass and upper mids. It’s hard for me to articulate just what it was about the lower mids I didn’t like, but I will say that my girlfriends 6XX sounded very similar there. To give an example, in The Bells by From Indian Lakes, Joey Vannucchi sounds congested, like he’s singing with a head cold. He also sounds too forward in the mix. I will say the separation and layering was good. Songs like Gloria by The Dear Hunter were well separated even in congested areas.

TREBLE
So, I’ll admit, I don’t have much here. The treble is definitely not harsh or overbearing, but I just wish it had a little bit more sparkle. For example, in the song Blue by Hiroyuki Sawano there is a wonderful swelling climax that the song comes to about 3/4 of the way through, and part of that is an assortment of chimes. On something like the HD800s or the original Thieaudio Monarch those chimes sound like crystal raining around you, but they lack that majesty and sparkle on the Borealis. Now, when it comes to a headphone, I think treble is much more likely to break rather than make it. And there’s nothing wrong with the treble on the Borealis, I just prefer a bit more.

The Rest
The soundstage is not standout, but it never felt claustrophobic. The imaging was not razer sharp like the HD800s but it was better than the 6XX. In terms of detail I felt like it punched at it’s weight, but it’s hard to give a definitive answer there as I don’t really have anything in the price range in my collection.

For some comparisons, I pulled out the HD800s (of course), the Beyerdynamic T70, the HE6se V2, and the SJY Moonlight. The HD800s was an unfair comparison but I did think bass texture and impact was better on the Borealis. The T70 was just too anemic and bright to compare, although I did find it to be a bit more detailed. That leaves just the Moonlight and HE6.

The SJY Moonlight was much more subdued than the Borealis, with very weak dynamics and bass that lacked impact. However, what really stood out to me was the midrange timber and detail. I thought the SJY sounded more natural across the mids and had a bit more detail than the Borealis, but that came at the expense of a driver that feels severely overtightened. Between the two, I would probably take the SJY, but again that more has to do with me just not clicking with the Borealis than any objective issues it has.

On the other hand, I feel like the biggest issue for the Borealis is the availability of the HE6se V2 at such a low price. Currently Hifiman has an open box model for $400, and at that price you can buy an amp to properly drive it easily. I found that the HE6 had less impact than the Borealis, but it had much better tonal balance in my opinion. It’s also more detailed, with better layering and separation. So while build quality, compatibility, comfort, looks, and dynamics all go to the Borealis, the HE6 would be my choice to take home.

So I guess my takeaway from the experience is that the Borealis is a great headphone, just not for me. When I was just listening to it in isolation I found it very very enjoyable (especially for gaming), if I were to keep it, not sending it off to the next reviewer, it probably wouldn’t get a ton of head time.

Oh, I forgot to add that the majority of the time I was using it I was using the Ayre Codex and the Topping A90D. I also used the Earmen Tradutto and a DIY WHAMMY amp, but far less.

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Hello! I did receive the Australis. Looking forward to getting some listening time in! Thank you!!

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