ADVANCED Evo X: No Compromises

Greetings!

In a past long gone, wireless audio was scoffed at for it’s spotty connections, bulky modules, and compromised sound quality. Over the years technology has advanced and great steps have been taken to address these issues. Luckily, I’ve more or less leapfrogged straight into the era of quality wireless sound, bypassing the mediocrity.

ADVANCED first appeared on the scene with a killer budget micro-driver based earphone, the M4. They followed that up with a monster of an earphone that had a nifty trick up it’s sleeve; a removable Bluetooth module. The Model 3 entirely sold me on the concept that wireless sound can be just as good as wired, proven through it’s ability to swap between wired and wireless use.

Now we have their newest entry, the Evo X. This time around ADVANCED has gone with a dedicated wireless product that doesn’t have the luxury of a removable Bluetooth module like the Model 3, so it better perform well at it’s intended purpose as a sports earphone. Does it? Let’s find out.

Disclaimer:

The Evo X was provided complimentary by ADVANCED in exchange for a fair and impartial review. Big thanks to Peter for reaching out to see if I was interested. This earphone is still considered the property of ADVANCED until they state otherwise. I am not receiving financial or any other form of compensation for this review. All comments and opinions within are my own and do not represent ADVANCED or any other entity.

The Evo X retailed for 59.99 USD at the time of this review. You can check them out here on ADVANCED’s site; ADVANCED Evo X

My Gear and I:

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, reviews from other established reviewers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own. 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, Meze and many more. 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 and payment enough.

I primarily used my HTC One M8 with additional testing done on a Samsung Nexus S, Samsung S2X, Motorola Moto G (Gen 1), PS VITA, and a quick link to my wife’s laptop, a Lenovo G50-45. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures, I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass. My favorite in-ear, the Echobox Finder X1 with grey filters is a good example of this.

Packaging and Accessories:

I’ve always liked ADVANCED’s packaging and watching it evolve across models has been a nice experience. The Evo X’s packaging is the most simple but also the most coherent of the lineup.

First of all, it’s very compact measuring in at approximately 5″x 4″x 2″. That’s not only nice for shipping and store shelves, but for collectors like myself it means it won’t take up a ton of room on my display shelf. This cool little box is something I will want to display.

The exterior sheath features a very mature and modern design giving you only what you want to know and in a very clear and concise manner. The front and left side show off the Evo X’s earpieces and cable. The right side contains ADVANCED’s poetic mission statement and some of their core values. Flipping to the rear things get down to business.

The first item to reach out and grab your attention will probably be the frequency chart which shows off a clean u-shaped signature. Below that is a description of the Beryllium dynamic driver and the intended tuning; additional mid and treble emphasis to bring out the detail that is often lost when using an earphone during strenuous activity. Don’t take this to mean the Evo X is bright, like the M4. They’re not, but I’ll get to that later.

Also shown is a blown up image of the Evo X’s construction and a list of the included accessories. As with the M4 and Model 3, ADVANCED did a good job providing you with what you’ll need for a nice experience. Included you will find;

– 3 pairs of foam tips in s/m/l

– 3 pairs of silicone tips in s/m/l

– 1 hard clamshell carrying case

– 1 microUSB charging cable

I really appreciate that ADVANCED sought to include foams tips in multiple sizes, something you don’t see very often. Generally it’s just a single set of medium foams and some silicone options to accompany them.

Sliding off the sheath reveals a jet black box with the ADVANCED logo in the middle. Open the magnetically sealed flap (from the left?) and you’re greeted by the same awesome carrying case that came with the Model 3. It’s spacious, well constructed, and quite durable. It’s a little big for most pockets though. Inside the case the Evo X earphone and all accessories are neatly stored. Finally, there is ADVANCED’s typical teensy leaflette that acts as a user manual explaining all the functions of the Evo X.

The Evo X offers a minimalist but very pleasant unboxing and comes with a good number of quality accessories. No complaints.

Build, Usability, Comfort, and Isolation:

As I have come to expect from ADVANCED’s products, the Evo X is well built. The housings are a mix of matte, rubberized plastic providing grip against your ear, glossy but fingerprint prone plastic on display for others to see, and extremely handy, built-in rubber ear hooks that are a key aspect in the Evo X’s amazing fit and stability. Even though the design means the Evo X can only be worn one way, there are very clear blue and red metal end caps on the ear hooks that denote left and right channels.

The function buttons on the right earpiece are placed intuitively and are very easy to use without much thought. The track skip and volume controls are on what is essentially a small toggle switch while the start/stop/call answer and hang up button is placed on the end of the housing. It takes effort to hit the wrong button.

While it was a little awkward at first, ADVANCED’s personalized controls for volume and track skipping became second nature and is something I would like to see carry over to other manufacturers products. I tend to skip through my track list quite frequently which with most earphones requires pressing and holding the button for a couple seconds. That’s a pain when you’re trying to skip quickly, so in more cases than not I pull out my phone and skip tracks there. With the Evo X a long press will raise or lower volume while single presses skip through tracks. I find this much faster and more convenient. especially since I’m unlikely to mess around with volume once set.

Comfort on the Evo X was much better than I was expecting. The driver is fairly small and housed in it’s own separate protrusion from the electronics. This topped off with a fairly short and well angled nozzle resulting in a shallow fit product. This should be a plus to those out there who aren’t fans of sticking things in your ears. Despite the fairly large exterior housings, the Evo X is extremely light making the ear hooks extra effective at keeping the Evo X in place. While the design really doesn’t look like anything special is going on, I found the Evo X’s ergonomics to be spot on and they pretty much disappeared when in use. I never had to spend time readjusting them as I do with my other Bluetooth sets. Once they’re in a comfortable position they’re stuck in place until you decide to move them. No amount of vigorous head-shaking could break them loose, though it did entice some mild driver flex in the right earpiece.

As a result of the shallow fit and ventilated, all plastic/rubber build, isolation is not that great. I suppose that’s a good thing given the Evo X’s target audience. You need to be able to hear some of what’s going on around you and while muted, sound does intrude. It’s not overwhelming, however, and the Evo X can go plenty loud anyway in order to drown it out, if that’s what you’re looking for. The included foam tips also served to boost isolation. Despite the seemingly aerodynamic design, wind noise was also somewhat intrusive but only while heading into a breeze.

Overall the Evo X’s plastic, lightweight construction feels solid and is put together well. Comfort for me was outstanding, and the controls were extremely easy to use without thinking about what I was doing.

Battery and Connection:

The Evo X sports a 5 hours battery life and two hour charge time. I’ve gone through three complete cycles (excluding out of the box use) and am happy to verify these times are accurate. The two hour charge time is a little long for 5 hours of use, especially given the Model 3 cuts 30 minutes off that for the same lifespan, but it’s not terrible in practice. I appreciate that the low battery warning isn’t overly intrusive, dropping a couple quick beeps every few minutes as the battery winds down.

Connection quality is where the Evo X stumbled a little for me, but let’s start with the pros. The Evo X starts up and pairs with a true sense of urgency. It takes only a couple second to power them on and pair. Once paired, the connection was perfectly stable with my phone sitting on a desk. I could walk around my apartment without any drops or sputters.

I did run into a couple quirks. The media controls stopped responding once, meaning I was unable to start/stop/skip tracks, change volume, etc. I simply had to cycle the Evo X off and on and the problem was resolved. This has yet to resurface. The second quirk is one I ran into with the Syllable D900. If I put my phone in my left pocket, I’ll experience every couple minutes a number of rapid drops before the connection stabilizes. This only happens with my phone in my left pants pocket leading me to believe the receiver is in the right earpiece. Not a huge issue, but it was somewhat inconvenient given I’m a lefty and I can’t put my source in my preferred location.

Overall the battery life is fine but I would like to see some improvements made to connection strength.

Call Quality:

The Evo X was only used for a few calls but it handled them without any qualms. My caller and I could hear each other clearly and the media controls worked just fine to answer and hang up. Can’t really ask for anything more I suppose.

Sound Quality:

I’ve been pretty impressed with all ADVANCED earphones so far. The M4 offered up a very detailed, somewhat cold sound with great treble and strong midrange but was lacking a bit when it came to raw bass extension. The Model 3 warmed things up a bit with greater midbass presence and improved extension when compared to the M4, giving each aspect of it’s signature pretty even billing.

The Evo X has more in common with the Model 3 than the M4 giving users a warmer, bassier sound. I appreciate that ADVANCED made sure to increase mid and treble presence because the Evo X ends up being a pretty balanced and smooth sounding earphone.

The Evo X’s treble is somewhat dry and lacks sparkle, but it’s clean and tight without being splashy or loose, two qualities that can very quickly kill any enjoyment of an earphone for me. While detail isn’t through the roof awesome, it’s good enough to ensure most minute details are picked up and on display. This is readily apparent during entirety of The Prodigy’s ‘The Day is My Enemy’ album which has lots of gritty, detailed treble. At very high volumes (nearly 100% on both phone and earphone), the Evo X loses composure and both treble clarity and separation suffer, but you shouldn’t be listening at those volumes anyway. Well, not if you care about your hearing.

The midrange on the Evo X is excellent. Throwing on Tom Cochrane’s “Good Times” nets a very intimate and natural experience, especially during the opening sequences. It’s captures his low, gruff tones immaculately well and really pulls you into the track. This experience carries over to more mainstream tracks like Jessie J’s “Bang Bang” where all the emotion and power of her and Ariana Grande’s voices ring through. In fact, every vocal performance I fired through the Evo X sounded great. These things would be wonderful for audio books, though that would be a bit of a waste.

Bass on the Evo X focuses a bit too much on mid-bass presence for my tastes and on some tracks, like the aforementioned “Bang Bang”, it can come across slightly boomy at times. In general it is reasonably quick but has a softness to it that takes away from their ability to provide a truly impactful low end.

Soundstage is about average for an in-ear with above average imaging for a Bluetooth set, at least compared to those models I own. Effects transition clearly from channel to channel with reasonable accuracy, feeling a bit vague just off centre. Given the intended use for the Evo X, this is more than reasonable. I don’t know about you, but when I’m jogging or biking and listening to music, hyper-accurate imaging is pretty low on my list of priorities. I want to be entertained, and the Evo X excels at that in spades.

Overall the Evo X is a good sounding earphone. They present an entertaining u-shaped signature with a very clear and smooth mid-range that sucks you in and keeps excitement levels high.

Select Comparisons:

Sound Quality Model 3 -> Evo X -> S09 -> M9B -> BLU-200

Connection Quality BLU-200 -> M9B -> Evo X -> S09 -> Model 3

Build/Material Quality BLU-200 -> Model 3 = Evo X -> M9B -> S09

Comfort/Ergonomics Evo X -> Model 3 -> S09 -> M9B -> BLU-200

Battery Life Evo X (5 hrs) = Model 3 (5 hrs) -> BLU-200 = S09 = M9B (4 hrs)

Overall The combination of excellent sound quality and comfort along with nice materials, good fit and finish, sweat resistance, and a competitive price make the Evo X my preferred choice. Yes, even over the Model 3 which I have no issues gushing about because it’s absolutely fantastic.

The Model 3 offers up the most detailed, balanced, and performance oriented signature of the bunch and is more versatile with the ability to run them wired vs. wireless, but the Evo X sounds darn good in it’s own way. Plus, it’s ergonomics, comfort, and convenience are unmatched in this group.

Sure, I could save some money going with the M9B and especially the S09, but despite being nice products they feel like compromises. The Evo X does not. The BLU-200 I feel is by far the weakest of the bunch and really only has going for it those sturdy metal housings and it’s strong wireless connection. The price for audio performance lags too far behind with a bassy, bloated sound. Their weight and lack of comfort hurt too.

Final Thoughts:

The Evo X is another excellent addition to ADVANCED’s lineup. Outside of some minor connection instability, there really isn’t much negative I can say about them, though I suppose the driver flex when shaking my head was annoying. That said, that never cropped up during regular use so unless you’re using them for something truly intense that’ll rattle your brain, like free-running or trials riding, this probably won’t affect you.

The greatest praise I can give is to highlight just how nice they are to use on a daily basis. The speed at which they turn on and pair, the comfort and killer ergonomics, and some solid sound quality all combine to make them a stellar earphone. To say they’re worth consideration if you’re in the market for a Bluetooth set under a 100 USD would be an understatement. The Evo X is very good.

Thanks for reading!

– B9Scrambler

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

Test Songs:

Aesop Rock – Mars Attacks

Aesop Rock – Saturn Missiles

BT – The Antikythera Mechanism

Daft Punk – Touch

Dillon Francis and NGHTMRE – Need You

Gramatik – Bluestep (Album Version)

Incubus – 2nd/3rd/4th Movements of the Odyssey

Infected Mushroom – Deeply Disturbed

Infected Mushroom – The Legend of the Black Shawarma

Jessie J – Bang Bang

Kiesza – Hideaway

King Crimson – Red (full album)

Pink Floyd – Money

Run The Jewels – Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry)

Supertramp – Rudy

The Prodigy – Get Your Fight On

Tom Cochrane – Good Times

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