Today we are going to be checking out one of Accutone’s most unique earphones, the Taurus.
The Taurus is the first of three earphones in Accutone’s Pro-X Line, which is where their earphones start to get serious. The Taurus’ pièce de résistance is it’s bass tuning knob, a distinguishing feature that really makes it stand out.
Bass tuning knobs are not a new feature and can be found on Sennheiser’s IE8 and IE80, the Aurisonics ASG 2.5, Lear’s LUF-BD4.2, and a number of other universal and custom earphones. All of those earphones are pretty expensive, however, especially for your average consumer who wouldn’t look twice at a 500 USD product when shopping for their new earphone. Accutone’s Taurus on the other hand brings to the budget realm a feature that is somewhat exclusive to higher end products.
I would like to thank Angus with Accutone for providing the Taurus 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 Taurus currently retails for 99.00 USD: http://www.audio.accutone.com/taurus
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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 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 Taurus is stored in some of the most durable and robust packaging I’ve come across yet. Wrapped in a red and black cardboard sheath outlining the product is a large black plastic case with a rubberized matte finish.
Open the lid and you are greeted by the Taurus’ housing tucked nicely into a foam cutout. Comply foam eartips are preinstalled. The connectors of the detachable cable are displayed below with the remainder of the cable neatly wound in their own cutout in the foam.
Lift out the foam sheet and underneath is another compartment housing the accessories. Included is Accutone’s excellent leatherette carry case, three sets of silicone tips (s/m/l), and another set of foam eartips. The second set of foams is the same as the set provided with the Pavo. I was very happy with their inclusion because they do not have the treble dulling qualities of Comply’s tips. Finally, there is also included a tiny screwdriver.
“Why a screwdriver?” you might be asking yourself. Because the tuning knob is recessed into the housing and cannot be turned by hand (unless you’ve got some seriously long fingernails), the screwdriver is needed to make adjustments.
Overall the Taurus’ unboxing experience is outstanding. The large case is also useful beyond providing positive first impressions, as it can easily hold the Taurus in their leatherette case, a DAP, small amp, and a number of other accessories if needed. For someone that travels a lot and needs a place to store their gear, this case will be a godsend.
Build, Design, Comfort, Isolation:
I enjoy good sound as much as an interesting design and the Taurus does a good job of providing some interesting visual stimulus.
The glossy, piano-black housings surprised me at how small they were. From the images I saw online before they arrived, I was expecting something pretty bulky but that was not at all the case. The housings are mostly plastic in construction and very light, but they don’t feel cheap. The nozzle is tipped with a metal ring that holds tips securely in place. The rear of the housing has two metal grills that not only add another interesting design cue, but also serve a practical purpose in the bass tuning feature. The unique shape and plethora of design cues ensures this is an interesting product to look at.
The small size, light weight, good fit and finish, and reasonably long nozzle that protrudes at a logical angle means the Taurus is a very comfortable earphone to wear. The cable can be worn up or down as well since Accutone did not limit it to one orientation, rotatating freely to let you use the Taurus however you want. Swiveling MMCX connectors may raise questions on long term durability, but that’s the price to pay for a personalized fit I guess. Personally, I would have been happy with it locked in either orientation. Since microphonics are kept to a minimum I found myself using them cable-down the majority of the time purely out of convenience.
The cable is somewhat thin above the y-split, and of average thickness below. I’d be generous in saying that strain relief is minimal at best. There is no relief at the 90 degree angled jack It is very short and stiff leading into the y-split and remote. Heading up to the housing, there is a long relief but it too is quite stiff. Not so much of an issue here due to the rotating, removable cable, but elsewhere more effective relief would be welcome. On the plus side, the cable is well-behaved. Microphonics (cable noise) are minimal, it is very flexible, and does not hold memory at all. This is a good cable that needs some extra strain relief to help ensure greater long term durability. I’m not sure if the MMCX connections are proprietary, but none of the spare cables I have worked out. The connections on the Taurus are quite stubby. Most of the MMCX cables I owned would fit, they just wouldn’t lock in place and therefore were unusable.
The inline mic is made entirely of plastic and feels fragile, especially compared to the quality of plastic chosen for the housings. The buttons depress with defined clicks and are easy to tell apart from each other due to the ergonomic design. Microphone quality is simply alright. My voice comes through fairly clear, though there is some notable background static that intrudes on your conversations. It worked perfectly with my HTC One M8, able to fully control my music and phone calls.
As a result of the two large vents on the rear of the housing, isolation is predictably low. The Taurus blocks outside noise on a level similar to the amply ventilated Dunu Titan 1/FiiO EX1.
I find the Taurus to be an attractive and interesting looking earphone that is mostly well-built and very comfortable. The cable itself is decent, though the swiveling MMCX connector may be something to watch for in the long run. More effective strain relief would also be welcome.
Tips: The preinstalled Comply eartips were replaced almost immediately. The Taurus is not an overly bright or energetic earphone. I found the Comply tips dulled all treble energy and sucked the life out of the Taurus. Tossing on Accutone’s unique foam tips or silicone tips resolved this issue, restoring life to the raging bull. Due to the nozzle having a smaller than average bore, tip rolling was limited. As is often the case, wide bore tips muted bass and increased treble presence, small bore tips muted treble and increased bass. I ended up choosing RHA S500i tips and using the bass knob to adjust bass to a more comfortable level.
Amping: The most notable benefit of using an amp was better bass control when the knob was adjusted past 50%. Unamped and with the dial adjusted above 50%, the Taurus loses composure and their bass becomes, slow, loose, and sloppy. Amped, it is still loose but no longer feels as slow or uncontrolled. They’re quite listenable in their maximum bass configuration when amped, but this still isn’t ideal. If you’re planning to listen to them the majority of the time with bass turned up, then an amp is highly recommended. If you will be listening to them in a lower bass configuration, an amp isn’t needed and your basic cellphone or DAP, such as an XDuoo X3, will work just fine.
The Taurus is characterized by a warm, smooth sound with laid-back treble and a clean midrange. If using bass at it’s maximum setting, the Taurus exhibits an L-shaped signature with mid-bass bleeding an unfortunate amount into the midrange. This isn’t so bad for music with less vocal presence, but otherwise it can be pretty intrusive. Toning down the bass flattens this L to the point where I have no issues saying the Taurus is one of the more neutral earphones I’ve come across.
Treble on the Taurus extends decently well. It could use some additional presence but for the most part is balanced with the midrange and bass when in a lower configuration. It can come across a little dull at times, and could possibly use a very slight boost in the 6k region to give them a bit of extra energy. This is especially apparent on Gramatik’s ‘Bluestep’ which makes heavy use of high hats. For the most part, however, the Taurus’ treble is quite inoffensive, refined, and easy to listen to.
Midrange on the Taurus, when not effected by overly exuberant bass, is also nicely balanced with the other frequencies. Both male and female vocals have nice texture and detail, and come across reasonably clear. Their is a slight veil that prevents them being as clear as they could, but this adds to that long term listen-ability the Taurus exudes. A track such as ‘Empire Ants ft. Little Dragon’ by Gorillaz does a nice job of showing that the Taurus handles both male and female vocals equally well. On classic rock tracks with a strong guitar presence, such as Grand Funk Railroad’s ‘Inside Looking Out’, instruments are presented with realistic attack and decay.
Bass. All-important bass. The bass knob on the Taurus is very effective. So effective you can dial in more bass than the driver can handle. Twisting the dial parallel with the rear vents reduces bass to near Havi B3 Pro 1 levels, which means quantity is very, very low. Twisting the dial so it rests perpendicular with the rear vents means the bull has been let loose, tearing through the china shop smashing everything in it’s wake. Sure that’s fun, but they’re not overly graceful in this configuration. Bass becomes loose, sloppy, decay is too long, and they get easily confused and muddied during complicated passages. With slower tracks, like pretty much anything from Massive Attack, the bass can really add to the emotion and feeling of the song. In most other instances, you’re best off dialing down the bass to something the Taurus’ driver is more comfortable with.
I spent the majority of my time listening to them with the dial at the 2 o’clock position, which is about 40%. of it’s range. I found this gave me the greatest balance of bass quantity, speed, impact, and clarity, all without effecting the midrange. In this “mode” their overall tonality and sonic qualities brought to mind the AAW Q and Brainwavz S5. As with both of those earphones, the Taurus doesn’t have the most punchy, hard hitting bass in the business, but does have great texture and decay. Listening to Gramatik’s ‘Torture feat. Eric Krasno’ helps show off these qualities.
When it comes to clarity and detail, the Taurus is simply average. For the majority of songs I didn’t find this an issue, but on more abstract, ethereal tracks like those found on BT’s ‘This Binary Universe’, you want all the detail and clarity you can get. This is a very dynamic album that shows heavy use of BT’s stutter edit effect in all it’s glory. While the Taurus does an admirable job, many of the finer details blend into each other. ‘The Antikythera Mechanism’ is a good test track given the heavily edited use of a live orchestra.
Soundstage is an area the Taurus excels, nearly rivaling the Dunu Titan 1. Their semi-open design gives them a nice light and airy feel, with instruments and effects cropping up around you. More than once I took them out thinking I was hearing something behind me, or that someone was calling me. Placement and imaging aren’t the most accurate, but are more than acceptable for an earphone in this price range.
The Taurus is very capable and enjoyable listen. Once you’ve played around with the bass dial and have found the driver’s breaking point for maximum bass, the Taurus shows that it is a very versatile product. While it is certainly capable of insane quantities of bass, it does not excel in such configurations and feels much more comfortable and at home when the bass is dialed down and kept in check.
Brainwavz S5 (99.50 USD): These two make for a solid comparison since they both sell for around the same amount and produce a similar sound.
The S5 is a bit thinner, brighter, and more energetic in the treble, but offers up similar levels of detail and clarity. The Taurus outputs similar bass, but with more impact and better extension into sub-bass regions *with the bass dial around the 50% mark*. Where they differ most is in the midrange. I found the S5 to have an overly recessed midrange which was too bad because mid-focused songs showed they were quite competent. The Taurus doesn’t suffer the same fate, and their general tone and feel is exceptionally close.
The only reason I would take the S5 over the Taurus is because of the materials used in their construction. The S5 has solid metal housings versus the Taurus’ plastic. The S5’s cable is much thicker and more robust with excellent strain relief throughout, though it’s not removable. The S5 imparts a feeling of confidence in their build quality that the Taurus just can’t match. While their overall sound quality is close, the Taurus is the better of the two. It’s bass is harder hitting than the S5’s, but it’s the more forward midrange that clinches the win.
AAW Q (199.00 USD): The AAW Q is a wonderfully balanced earphone that brings forth a relaxing, u-shaped signature in a very tiny package.
The Taurus in a low-bass configuration does an excellent job of replicating the Q’s sound signature, though it lacks the technical competence. Their midrange presence is similar with the Q edging out the Taurus in texture and detail. Bass depth goes to the Taurus. They have similar impact and decay times, with the Q again showing greater texture. Instrument separation and placement is vastly superior on the Q, though the Taurus offers up the more spacious soundstage able to toss effects well beyond what the Q can accomplish.
Once again, material quality falls behind on the Taurus. The Q has a pretty thin cable, but not a thin as the Taurus’. It’s also better relieved. Accutone’s cable has better memory-resisting effects though. Despite the Q’s small size and that it pretty much resides entirely in your ear canal, the Taurus is just as comfortable. Kudos to Accutone’s designers for their ergonomics.
Yes, the Q is the better of the two, but the Taurus shares many similar qualities and is more versatile due to the bass tuning feature.
Suggestions for Improvement:
It would be nice to see future iterations of the Taurus come with an upgraded cable that is thicker and better relieved. The existing cable is okay, but it feels fragile and is not the most confidence inspiring.
The bass tuning feature is great, but you are given too much freedom. Either a future revision of the Taurus’ driver should be able to handle all the bass you can dial in, or the dial should be limited to a certain range that better suits what the existing driver can handle.
Finally, the bass knob should have clear start and end points for minimum and maximum adjustment. As-is, you can spin the dial freely and it’s very easy to imbalance bass levels on either side. If there were notches molded into the housing that displayed min and max bass settings, and some points between, adjusting bass evenly between the two channels would be much easier. Less important is for the dial to be adjustable without a screwdriver. It would be nice to easily be able to adjust bass levels on the fly without having to pull out a tool.
Accutone has a pretty unique and worthwhile product in the Taurus, one I would love to see them continue to develop and refine.
The packaging doubles as a spacious and secure carrying case for more than just the Taurus. The included accessories are of good quality and are fairly generous in quantity. There are some great features to be found such as an Android compatible remote that works well for phone calls, a removable MMCX cable, and the bass tuning dial.
If you are looking for a new earphone in the 100 USD price range and don’t feel like limiting yourself to one particular signature, the Taurus is worthy of consideration. With a quick twist of the tuning dial it can be extremely bassy, near neutral, and pretty much anything in between.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
BT – This Binary Universe
Gramatik – The Age of Reason
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That?
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
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
Grand Funk Railroad – Inside Looking Out