Accutone Pavo: Dual-dynamic goodness

Greetings!

Today we are going to be taking a look at the Pavo, Accutone’s first foray into the wild world of dual-driver earphones.

The Pavo first crossed my path after reading @Cinder‘s coverage over on Head-fi.org. What sparked my interest most was their physical similarity to one of my favorite dual driver earphones, the NarMoo W1M. In fact, they looked pretty much identical. With curiosity at the forefront, I reached out to Accutone to find out firsthand what the Pavo was all about.

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank Jensen and Ada with Accutone for providing the Pavo in exchange for a fair and impartial review. I am not receiving any financial compensation for this review and all comments and views within are my honest opinions. They are not representative of Accutone or any other entity.

The Pavo retailed for 51.00 USD at the time of this review: http://www.audio.accutone.com/#!pavo/t8f0u

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A Little About Me:

Over the last couple years I decided to dive head first into the world of portable audio. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread and being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own reviews. Fast forward a couple years and I’ve had the opportunity to write about some great products for wonderful companies like RHA, Havi, FiiO, NarMoo, Brainwavz, and Meze. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to an earphone that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done.

The gear I use for testing is pretty basic composing of an HTC One M8 cellphone, Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Plantronics Rig USB amp. An XDuoo X3 (shout out to my cousin Rob!) has recently been added to the crew and was used for the majority of my testing. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. When it comes to signature preference I tend to lean towards aggressive and energetic, but I try not to limit myself to one signature only. I also tend to listen at lower than average volumes.

Enough preamble. Let us dive into the good stuff shall we?

Packaging and Accessories:

The Pavo comes in pretty simple but fairly attractive packaging. The other sheath contains an image of the product on the front. The statement “Dual-driver high-fidelity audio headphone with microphone” is printed on either side. On the back is a smaller image of one housing and the universal controller., and a brief paragraph explaining the product and it’s purpose; to deliver “an elite level of balanced audio performance”. We will address that statement later on. Sliding the sheath off revealed what looked to essentially be wax paper but is more like a thick tracing paper. Underneath the Pavo was neatly tucked in a cardboard slip covered. Different.

Included with the Pavo were three sets of silicone tips; two pairs of single flange tips in small and large sizes, and a pair of dual flange tips that I guess occupy the medium slot. They also tossed in a set of nice foam tips not mentioned anywhere on Accutone’s Pavo webpage.

Finally, the included carrying case is quite good. It looks to be made of pleather, but has a nice leathery smell to it. It is very similar in design to the case that came with my Sony XBA-2, but is thinner and stiffer offering better protection. It seals with a satisfying magnetic “snap!”.

I like the case and the foams tips, but I wish Accutone also included a set of medium single flange tips. The dual flange are a good addition but are not as universally applicable to a wide variety of ears as a basic pair of medium single flange tips can be.

Build, Design, Comfort, Isolation:

The Pavo uses aluminum for their housings and is a fairly traditional barrel shape, tapering smoothly to a slightly smaller than average nozzle size; 6mm at the tip, 4mm down the remainder of the shaft (stop giggling…). While that sounds all fine and dandy, it makes tip-rolling a challenge since many wide-bore tips sit too loosely for me to be comfortable using them. Tips that seal particularly well will show off some minor but still annoying driver-flex on insertion.

About halfway down the housing is a ring of knurling. This was a point of contention for me with the NarMoo W1M as it was very poorly cut and quite rough. The Pavo’s cut is much smoother, though I can still see it being an issue for some if it touches your ear. Luckily, this is not an issue for me.

Left and right channels are clearly marked by blue and red rings on the rear of each housing. L and R are also printed on the strain reliefs, with an additional dot on the left side to help out the vision impaired. Channel indication overall is clear and easy to understand.

Due to their simple design, light weight, and slightly thinner nozzle, the Pavo is very comfortable. Wearing them cable up or cable down is just fine, though I recommend wearing them cable up to deal with microphonics which can be a bit intrusive when walking around. The cable is very pliable and carries enough weight to hold it’s place when worn cable up making ear hooks unnecessary. Strain relief if excellent at the housings, and good everywhere else. There is even a handy chin-cinch for those that like them.

Isolation is good but not great. It’s about what you would expect for a dynamic driver eaphone. With music off I can carry on conversations with those around me just fine. With music playing at my lower-than-normal listening volume, outside noise is muted just enough to make them work for commuting and walking around outside.

Microphone and Module Performance:

The microphone on the Pavo sounds pretty great actually. It falls just short of more accomplished mics like those found in JVC’s FRD series of canalphones, but overall I came away impressed. In testing callers noted little background noise, minus the occasional bumping of the mic against my clothing, and had no issues hearing me. In recordings, I sounded clear and crisp with a touch of sibilance when I raised my voice.

The inline controller module is well built from a durable matte plastic. The buttons are easy to depress but slightly difficult to differentiate blindly since they’re all on a level field. The controller is advertised as a “Dual OS Digital Control” supporting both Android and iOS. While I didn’t have an Apple device on hand to test with, I did give it a go with four different Android devices.

With the HTC One 8 the volume up and down buttons would skip and reverse through tracks. The centre button took over starting/stopping tracks. My trusty old Samsung Nexus S worked just fine with it too, giving you the same functionality as it’s M8 from HTC. I found the Nexus S more responsive as the HTC would lag a bit with control inputs. I’m running Shuttle on the One M8 versus Google Play on the Nexus which may have had a hand in this, but I’m not so sure as using Google Play on the HTC was still sluggish.

On my Galaxy S2X the centre button functioned as expected, used to start and stop tracks. To my pleasant surprise, the volume buttons actually controlled volume! Wow. What a novel concept. This is the second time I’ve come across the volume buttons performing their intended function on an Android device (first was with the Brainwavz S5). It’s too bad the S2X outputs pretty terrible sound and that I retired it long ago.

Finally, we have a 1st gen Motorola Moto G. Compatibility with three button remotes is a known issue with this phone, and use with the Pavo was no exception. The remote didn’t register at all.

Sound:

*Tips: Due to the shape of my ear canals, most multi-flange tips just don’t work. The Pavo’s included tips were no exception. There were only a few wide-bore tips in my collection that fit these nozzles (UE600, Marley, NarMoo) but I wasn’t a fan of any. They boosted treble throwing off the nice balance small bore tips and the includes foams achieved. The majority of my listening was done with the included large single flange, purely out of convenience. I preferred the foam tips since they were the most comfortable and smoothed out the touch of graininess the treble displayed.

* Amping: I found the Pavo to be easy to drive to excessive volumes out of any device I used, including the PS VITA which has a notoriously weak amp. Pairing the Pavo with my X3/NX1 combo sounded lovely. I found bass a little sluggish out of the One M8, but nice and punchy when amped. It’s not blisteringly quick like JVC’s FXH30, but the Pavo’s 10mm can be quite nimble when powered correctly. I also found minor improvements everywhere else, notable enough to make listening to them amped worth the hit to mobility.

Accutone says the Pavo delivers “an elite level of balanced audio performance.” Elite might be a bit of a stretch, but every aspect of their sound is nicely balanced. Neither treble nor bass are boosted to be the centre of attention. The midrange isn’t sucked out in favor of a popular v-shaped signature. No, the Pavo does a good job of giving every aspect of it’s signature it’s due.

Treble on the Pavo is well-extended and quite sparkly for a budget offering. Not over the top like the JVC HA-FXD80 or subdued like the LZ A2S. It’s just right, giving off a nice airiness that I haven’t heard often from earphones in this price range. It’s tight and accurate with none of the splashiness common in cheaper and/or less well-tuned earphones. It also lacks the brittle, somewhat dull edge of the Rhapsodio Clipper, an earphone that is outstanding in every other measure of their sound.

The Pavo’s midrange is very pleasant, reminiscent of their NarMoo cousins. The Pavo edges ahead in clarity and detail but the W1M conveys more emotion and carries more weight, especially in something like Daft Punk’s Touch or Culprate’s Undefined. Maybe that’s a result of their more forward nature, or the W1M’s more mid/mid-bass centric sound, but with vocal-focused tunes I find the W1M the more intimate and enjoyable listen.

Mid-bass on the Pavo is quick and punchy. Sub-bass falls off too early for my liking. On tracks like Skrillex’s Ruffneck, the pulsating bassline that dominated the intro has little to no impact. Still, for tracks that focus less on obscene amount of sub-bass, the Pavo delivers. It’s got lots of texture, it can handle rapid changes, and has enough warmth and mid-bass presence to satisfy most tracks.

Soundstage on the Pavo comes across pretty spacious with solid impressions of height, width, and depth. Using them with World of Tanks and the updated sound engine, you could easily tell where shots were coming from and approximate where on the tank they were ricocheting. In fact, I think their soundstage and imaging are accurate enough for the Pavo to be a solid gaming earphone for when you don’t feel like using full-sized cans.

Overall I find the Pavo to be an excellent sounding earphone with lots of energy, good detail, and an accurate soundstage. They can be a touch grainy at times but they easily complete with, and in my opinion, best the well-received LZ A2S dual-driver hybrid which typically runs you anywhere from 60 to 90 USD. Goes to show that a well-tuned dual dynamic earphone can keep costs down and remain competitive with at least one of the many budget hybrids that are all the rage at the moment.

Select Comparisons:

NarMoo W1M (49.99 USD): The NarMoo places their focus on the midrange and mid-bass making them comes across a somewhat dull and stuffy against the Pavo. I prefer the W1M’s more intimate and forward midrange, but the Pavo displays better detail in the treble, a larger and more accurate soundstage, and quicker, more detailed bass. Sub-bass on the Pavo thankfully digs deep than on the W1M. Build is identical minus the Pavo’s cleaner cut knurling. The W1M’s cable is also a good three inches longer which might be a plus if you are tall.

LZ A2S (~60-90 USD): Admittedly I didn’t much like the A2S on first listen. However, after giving them LZ’s recommended play time of 200 hours and rolling tips to find the best match, I now enjoy them with some music. That said, if someone were to hand me the A2S and the Pavo and ask which was the hybrid, Accutone’s product would have gotten the nod.

The Pavo’s 6mm driver handling treble is so much more detailed and quicker that the A2S’ balanced armature. The midrange of the A2S is hard to best under 100 USD, and oneups the Pavo with a warmer more natural tone despite being less detailed. While the A2S can dig deeper than the Pavo, bass is still quicker and better textured on Accutone’s dualie. The Pavo is certainly the more balanced of the two with the A2S showing itself to have recessed treble and overly boost mid-bass.

I prefer the LZ’s housing as it is more ergonomic and comfortable despite the additional weight. I like both cables for different reasons. LZ’s cable is very plush and flexible, minimizing microphonics. Accutone’s cable is noisier but has proven to be exceptionally durable, at least in it’s application on NarMoo products.

Rhapsodio Clipper: The Clipper is Rhapsodio’s first entry-level earphone. It’s a 55 USD, single driver earphone with a light plastic shell and a low profile design. They also have a stellar removable cable with the best built in earguide I’ve come across to date. The Clipper comes with no retail packaging and a bare bones accessory kit. In other words, they couldn’t be more different than the Pavo. Well, yes and no.

Where they compete is in sound quality, i.e. both are stellar but for different reasons. I found the Clipper’s treble presentation to be underwhelming. It is dry, brittle and somewhat recessed, but still fairly detailed. The Pavo is easily the more accomplished earphone here. Their midranges sound similar, though it’s more forward on the Pavo. Bass is where they stray. I enjoy the Pavo’s presentation and it works well in most instanced, but the lack of sub-bass extension is a letdown. The Clipper makes up for that with the most visceral and entertaining bass you can get in a budget earphone. It can be overwhelming, but I don’t care. It’s way too much fun.

JVC HA-FXH30 (~55 USD): I don’t include the FXH30 in most of my reviews for the simple reason that I don’t see the point. It stomps most of the competition in their price range (and well-above) into the ground. While the Pavo doesn’t best my budget king it at least puts up a fight.

The Pavo and FXH30 have similar signatures with the JVC being the more energetic and less balanced of the two. The JVC is faster, more refined, hits deeper subbass notes, and to my ears sounds more natural despite a slightly thinner presentation and a less forward midrange. The Pavo emphasizes the one shortcoming of my beloved FXH30; soundstage width and height which are merely average at best. The FXH30 offers up greater depth, but the Pavo’s more well-rounded presentation is preferential.

I also have no doubt that the Pavo will be the more durable of the two down the road due to it’s aluminum housings and PU cable, but when sound quality is key those single, tip-mounted, titanium-coated micro-drivers will be in my ears.

Overall:

Accutone has entered a doozy of a dual-driver budget earphone into the 50 USD earphone market. While their design may not be for everyone (especially in the flash-tacular Gold you see here), there’s no denying that their excellent sound and good build quality allows them to complete with some heavy-hitters.

In this price range, the Pavo will likely become my go-to recommendation for someone that wants a well-rounded earphone that does essentially everything well without breaking the bank.

Thanks for reading!

– B9Scrambler

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Test Albums

BT – This Binary Universe

Gramatik – The Age of Reason

Incubus – Movement of the Odyssey Parts 2/3/4

Infected Mushroom – The Legend of the Black Shawarma

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Skindred – Roots Rock Riot

Massive Attack – Mezzanine

The Crystal Method – Tweekend

Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass

The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy

Culprate – Deliverance

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