Today we’re checking out Astrotec’s newest flagship earphone, the Phoenix 6.
The original Phoenix was one of my 2020 sleeper hits, eschewing a balanced sound for some of the most visceral sub-bass I have experienced to date. With a hand-crafted rosewood shell with aluminum and titanium face plate accents, it certainly looked the part of a flagship. With the new Phoenix 6, Astrotec has stepped up their game in a big way. Instead of “just” two electrostatic tweeters and a single dynamic, the 6 ups it to four electrostats, one balanced armature, and one dynamic driver. The Phoenix 6 is a heck of a lot easier to drive now too, unlike the original Phoenix which was more at home with a full-sized headphone amp than anything portable. The entire shell is now a titanium alloy with further improved ergonomics and durability. The (imo) mediocre fabric wrapped cable has been replaced with a marvellously thick 4.4mm balanced option, as well as a more traditional silver-plated 3.5mm unbalanced cable as backup. These enhancements and upgrades come at a price though, with the Phoenix 6 commanding a much more flagship-like 1,559.00 USD compared to the original’s “paltry” 799.00 USD point of entry.
Do all these changes make the Phoenix 6 a worthwhile addition to Astrotec’s lineup, and more importantly, does it compete with similarly priced gear? Let’s find out!
What I Hear
Tips: Anyone in this hobby looking to buy an earphone of this calibre should know by now that tips are the most important part of having a positive experience. It doesn’t matter how much it costs, how snazzy your amp is, how premium your cable is. If the tips don’t seal properly, your earphone is going to sound off, wrong, bad, overrated, whatever. Thankfully, Astrotec includes a wide variety of tip options that should suit the vast majority of users. The included memory foam tips seal brilliantly but for my tastes result in a bit too much warmth. The bass ear tips use a semi-stiff silicone with a smaller opening. They give the low end LOTS of punch and impact and make for a good pairing with the Phoenix 6. I found they lost seal too easily though, so not my preferred companion. The vocal tips use a softer silicone and have a wider opening. This reduces punch, sucks up some of the treble, and results in the vocals being pulled forward a bit. This is more in line with my preferences, and along with a more reliable seal made them my preferred set to listen with. My ear canals do not play well with deep insertion tips. As such, I couldn’t use the triple flange as it pinched the opening, cutting off all sound when they were inserted all the way. Bummer. In regards to third party options, Spinfit CP100 and Sony Hybrids were good alternatives to the bass tips as they sounded similar but provided a more reliable seal. Spinfit CP145s were my preferred alternative to the vocals tips for the same reason. I didn’t enjoy wide bore sets like those from JVC as I felt they threw off the tuning balance by reducing sub-bass presence and bumping lower treble.
Tuning for the Phoenix 6 feels like a mix of Harman and diffuse-field curves with the former’s pumped up bass and the latter’s upper mid bump, though one that is considerably more mild than say, Moondrop’s take on it. As a result, I found the overall presentation to be well balanced, offering plenty of low end for bassy tracks, forward mids for vocal-focused tracks, and reasonably mellow treble to give it an all-rounder quality some so strive for.
Starting with the low end the Phoenix 6 is not shy on bass. It’s no original Phoenix (read about that Monster here), but then nothing I’ve heard can quite keep up with that beast in the low end, so no surprise there. Extension out of the Phoenix 6 is stellar with plenty of high quality, visceral sub-bass to go around. Mid-bass is plenty punchy and adds just the right amount of warmth throughout the overall signature. It’s quite rapid too, taking on the fleeting notes inherent to drum and bass and metal tracks without secreting a single drop of salty body water. The ending drum and bass section of Skrillex’s “Ragga Bomb ft. Ragga Twins” sound flippin’ epic through the Phoenix 6. The dynamic used in the Phoenix 6 also does a great job with texturing. It’s not crazy detailed or grimy, but more than enough to satisfy my needs with tracks from juggernauts like The Prodigy and Malibu Ken. One track in particular I’ve been rocking to the Phoenix 6 with is Alex McGee and Axel Boy’s “Another Level” which is rife with thumping basslines and gorgeous female vocals, leading us neatly into our next section.
The Phoenix 6’s mids are pretty darn spectacular. Timbre is pretty much spot on with instruments sounding accurate to their real-life counterparts. Amusingly, I’ve listened to more live music than ever since the macaroni pandemic hit. Go figure… Anyway, this earphone is right at home with vocals of all styles. Detail and articulation are quite good and I never have an issues making out what the artist is saying, something I oft struggle with since I’m not really the kind to aim a lot of focus on that aspect of a track. As with everything there are exceptions, such as with basically anything from Aesop Rock who is a masterful lyricist offering up some of the most interesting, dense lyrics in the industry. That said, one thing he has struggled with on recent releases is sibilance and generally hot vocal mastering. The album ‘Spirit World Field Guide’ (SWFG) is a particularly strong offender with the opening track “The Gates” being a total sizzle-fest. “Hello From The Spirit World” is technically the first track, but it’s just an intro and doesn’t count. Listening to SWFG through the wrong product can test even the most dedicated Aesop fan. Thankfully, the Phoenix 6 handles it like a professional, taking some of the sibilance and rounding off the sharpness. The aggression is still there, it’s just not painful, something I can’t say when listening through some of the 6’s competition.
Leading into the treble I find the tuning of the armatures and electrostats to be pretty much spot on. Compared to other flagships, the Phoenix 6 handily matches them terms of raw detail and clarity, with notes being tighter and better defined with virtually zero splash to speak of. Similar to the presentation of like a good dynamic, but better. While I’d personally like more upper treble shimmer which would spice the presentation up a bit, I can’t complain with how well-rounded the tuning is. Most importantly, it’s not boring, a complaint I levy at Harman-style tuning all the time. The presence region is boosted enough to provide excellent clarity and detail, while avoiding coming across as harsh or grating. The small 11k bump offered in the brilliance region is enough to mix in some shimmer and sparkle, yet restrained enough to avoid being jarring or causing fatigue, even at volumes I’m not comfortable with.
Sound stage is where the Phoenix 6 wraps things up and truly earns it’s flagship status to my ears. Default positioning for vocals is just outside the ear with sounds spreading out plenty far from there. Tossing on “Szamar Madar” from Venetian Snares, you feel completely embedded in the music with strings, horns, vocals, etc. swirling and sweeping all around. I get an even more impressive sense of space and immersion from BT’s experimental album ‘ If The Stars Are Eternal Then So Are You And I’. The opening track “13 Angels On My Broken Windowsill” is an amazing staging showcase and complements the 6’s technical abilities perfectly. Channel to channel imaging is pinpoint accurate. Instrument separation is outstanding too with zero blending or smearing present. Layering is also top tier with tracks having appropriate depth to the various elements. For gaming the Phoenix 6 is complete overkill. Sound is important and can give you a serious advantage in some games. Highly recommend for this purpose. Overall just a killer spacial experience with few equals that I’ve come across.
Compared To A Peer
Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 (1,499.00 USD): Starting with the low end, the quad-driver hybrid Solaris 2020 takes a more reserved approach with less of a boost overall, and a more linear transition from sub- to mid- and upper bass. I found the Campfire to provide more texture but lack punch and visceral feedback in comparison. Both are plenty nimble and can handle rapid notes and quick transitions without breaking a sweat. Traversing into the midrange we see the Solaris embracing the centre mids versus the Phoenix 6’s diffuse field-like upper mid emphasis. Here I find the Pheonix 6 superior to the Polaris 2020 in basically every way. Vocals are warmer, more natural, and both cleaner and more articulate. Timbre sees much of the same advantage with the Phoenix 6 being the more accurate and natural of the two. Treble out of the Pheonix 6 is tighter and more refined with better edge definition. This is where the new-ish electrostat tech and tuning focus really earn their keep, because the Solaris 2020 has some of the higher quality treble I’ve heard. Thanks to considerably more upper treble presence, the Solaris brings additional sparkle, shimmer, and overall energy to the table, though this comes at the expense of long term listening fatigue which isn’t really an issue with the Phoenix 6. The Solaris 2020 pulls more detail out of tracks, and slightly ups clarity over the Phoenix 6. Sound stage is an area where Campfire products usually dominate. While the Solaris 2020 was good, it’s predecessor was better, and the Phoenix 6 even more so. The Phoenix 6 comes across wider, deeper, offers more black space between instruments and notes, and in general gives off the impression of a more spacious listen. Add to that similar technical qualities, like pin-point accurate channel-to-channel imaging, nuanced layering and instrument separation, and the Pheonix 6 is quite impressive indeed.
Earsonics Grace Platinum (1899,00€): The 10 armature Grace Platinum is a beast of an earphone when it comes to specs, performance, and price, outshining most of what I’ve heard over the years. Not the Pheonix 6 though. While bass quantity is similar between the two, the Grace’s armatures just can’t match the slam and punch of the Phoenix’s dynamic. While the Grace’s armatures are no slouch in terms of extension, it does fall short of the outstanding extension achieved by the Pheonix 6’s dynamic driver. This results in the Grace being a hint more mid-bass forward than the Phoenix 6, though I still hear both as sub-bass skewed overall. Speed and articulation are slightly ahead on the Grace. The Phoenix pulls back some love by matching the Grace’s killer texturing. Peeking into the midrange we find very difference presentations. The Grace is leaner, cooler, and somewhat dry. This leaves its timbre accuracy behind the Phoenix 6. The Grace pulls back your attention with near class-leading detail and clarity which are a small step beyond the already impressive Phoenix 6. That said, I still prefer Astrotec’s presentation in this regard thanks to the additional warmth and improved timbre quality, both of which are achieved without a significant sacrifice in quality or performance in other areas. Treble on the Grace is pretty chill until you hit a strong ~11k peak which gives the earphones its character. That peak gives the Grace considerably more edge and shimmer than the Phoenix 6, almost as if there is a metallic sheen coating the upper ranges. I can see this being a polarizing quality for those that are treble sensitive, one that the Phoenix 6 avoids. Output on the Phoenix 6 is tighter and cleaner thanks to those electrostats, with speed being similar. The Grace has a harder attack though.
In The Ear An earphone costing as much as the Phoenix 6 should look and feel special, void of the sort of corner cutting you’d expect from more affordable products. Thankfully, the Phoenix 6 is every bit as nice to look at and hold as the price tag would suggest. The shells of the Phoenix 6 are made from a titanium alloy. Fit and finish is outstanding with no sharp edges or misaligned parts. The turtle-shell like design on the face plate serves to give the Phoenix 6 some visual intrigue, and harks back to one of my favourites from the brand, the Delphinus 5. Laser etched on the inner half of the shell, ensuring they do no rub off, are L and R markings to denote channel. Phoenix 6 is etched on the rear in the same classy font used on the packaging. Up top near the 2-pin ports are single vents. While they do create some wind noise when out and about, it’s minimal and not overly distracting. Lastly, stainless steel nozzle covers protect dirt and debris from entering the earphone.
The Phoenix 6 comes with two cables. The secondary cable reminds me a lot of the one TinHiFi shipped with their T2 Plus. Like that cable, the wiring is reasonably thin with fairly loose braiding. Strain relief at the 90 degree angled jack is plentiful, but absent leading into the y-split. Astrotec added a chin cinch which helps make up for the loss of relief, a feature which also helps with mitigating what little cable noise is present. Leading up to the 0.78mm plugs are preformed ear guides which work well to keep the cable in place behind the ear. When plugged into the earphone, they sit flush. Overall a decent cable, but it absolutely pales in comparison to the 4.4mm balanced cable. If you were planning to pick up the Phoenix 6 and use the unbalanced cable, don’t. Instead, factor in adding a suitable amp module (ex. DDHifi TC44C) so you can take full advantage of running the Phoenix 6 balanced, unless you already own one of course.
The 4.4mm balanced cable is drop dead gorgeous with thick, weighty strands, braided evenly top to bottom. The straight jack is reasonably compact given the 4.4mm balanced connector and features minimal strain relief. Better than nothing I suppose. And instead of knurling to provide grip, a brass coloured, hexagonal ring does the job. Astrotec is laser etched into the body of the jack as well, further adding to the premium feel. The y-split echoes the jack’s design with a stainless steel body and brass ring. A beefy metal y-split sits above and does a good job of tightening the cable under your chin. It combined with the preformed ear guides also do a decent job mitigating cable noise which I found slightly more prominent than on the secondary cable. The 0.78mm plugs are all metal, but lack strain relief. Also missing is colour coding to denote channel. A raised dot on one channel is also absent, something the vision impaired would benefit from. L and R are etched into the metal, but they’re only useful in good light. Overall a killer cable, but one that is missing some common features.
Ergonomics and comfort of the Phoenix 6 are fantastic. The length and angling of the nozzle feels very natural to my ears. Not too short, not too long, with a natural distribution of weight and material around the ear. The interior rests naturally in the outer ear thanks to the custom-like curvature, similar in design to the previous Phoenix model, but somewhat more prominent. Thanks to the proper distribution of weight and lack of sharp edges, this earphone is one I can wear for long periods without needing to rest my ears, at least due to discomfort. Of course you should take breaks every once in a while to protect your hearing, and stop listening so dang loud!! Yeah, I’m talking to you -_-
In The Box Packaging for the Phoenix 6 is on the large side with a thick cardboard sleeve protecting a matte black box within. The front of the sheath contains an image of the earpieces set on a black backdrop with the brand, model name, and driver configuration placed in the corners. To the rear are additional product features and specifications. Sliding off the sheath, opening the magnetically sealed box, and removing a cardboard insert, you find the earpieces, carrying case, and some of the accessories set within a foam insert. Lifting out the dense foam earpiece tray reveals an additional accessories box. In all you get:
- Phoenix 6 earphones
- Leatherette clam shell carrying case
- 0.78mm High Purity OCC 4.4mm cable
- 0.78mm Silver Plated 3.5mm cable
- Memory foam tips (m x 2)
- Tri-flange tips (s, l)
- Bass ear tips (s, m, l)
- Vocal ear tips (s, m, l)
- Cleaning tool
- Velcro cable tie
- Cloth earpiece bag
- Key chain cube pendant
Overall a pretty outstanding unboxing experience. While the package is large, the size is warranted given the quantity and quality of the included extras. Everything is stored securely and attractively presented without any unnecessary drawers or compartments that would increase the amount of material needed, thereby creating additional waste. I suspect the majority of users will find the included accessories perfectly satisfactory, swapping them out only for aesthetic purposes or personal preference as I did with the ear tips, despite the included sets fitting well and feeling plenty durable.
Final Thoughts The Phoenix 6 is a large step forward for the Astrotec brand. While they’re no strangers to premium segments thanks to their top-of-the-line earbuds, the Phoenix 6 raises the bar for their earphone lineup. It is a showcase of their technology and tuning capacity, securing Astrotec a spot among respected upper echelon brands like Campfire Audio and Earsonics. The refined design and premium materials of the Phoenix 6, along with the brilliantly tuned, high tech tri-brid driver setup justifies the Phoenix 6’s status as Astrotec’s top tier offering and ensures it is a more-than-worthy choice for those looking to try an earphone of this calibre.
Brilliant work Astrotec!
Thanks for reading.
Disclaimer Thank you to Astrotec for reaching out to see if I would be interested in reviewing the Phoenix 6, and for arranging samples for the purposes of review. The thoughts within this review are my personal, subjective opinions and do not represent Astrotec or any other entity. At the time of writing the Phoenix6 was retailing for 1,559.00 USD. You can check it out here; https://astrotecglobal.com/products/phoenix6
Gear Used For Testing Huawei P40, DDHiFi TC44C, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501
- Driver: 4 Sonion Electrostatic Drivers / 1 Sonion Balanced Armature Driver / 1 Customized Dynamic Driver
- Input: 1 mW
- Max Input: 5mW
- Impedance: 5ohm
- Cable: High Purity OCC 4.4mm + Silver Plated 3.5mm
- Sensitivity: 108dB/1mw (S.P.L at 1KHz)
- Connector: 3.5mm stereo plug
- Frequency Response: 5Hz – 50,000Hz
Some Test Tunes
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)
Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)
Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)
Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)
Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)