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Golden Ears: I\O Audio Volare IEM Review

A Great First Release

Christopher Coke Posted:
Hardware Reviews 0

I\O Audio is a new brand aiming to launch with a bang. Its first product, the I\O Audio Volare is certainly impressive. At $599, it features a tribrid design consisting of one dynamic driver, four balanced armatures, and four electrostatic drivers.  This type of configuration is found in some of the highest-end IEMs on the market and usually starts north of $700 and extends into the multiple thousands. Certainly Golden Ears territory, it still manages to feel like a good value in the category it’s competing in. If you’re looking for a grat balance of punchy bass and sparkly treble, this is a great set to consider. 


  • Current Price: $599 (Shenzen Audio)
  • Driver Configuration: 1x 8mm custom dynamic driver, 4x  full-frequency balanced armatures, 4x Danish-imported SONIC high-voltage electrostatic drivers.
  • Dynamic Diaphragm Material: Silica Gel Suspension Birch Dome Dynamic Diaphragm
  • THD: THD @ 1kHz<1% (94dB)
  • Sensitivity: 123dB/Vrms (@1kHz)
  • Impedance: 2 Ω±10% (@ 1khz)
  • Frequency Response: 8Hz-40kHz 
  • Effective Frequency Response Range: 20Hz-20kHz 
  • Frequency Crossover Structure: 4-way electronic crossover, 3-way physical nozzle crossover
  • Cable: 8-strand oxygen-free copper, silver plated

I\O Audio Volare - First Impressions and Key Features 

The I\O Audio Volare is an impressive first entry from a brand new company. Available at Shenzen Audio now and first teased around a week ago, the set has garnered a decent amount of hype.  Without anything prior from the brand to go on all we had was the imagery showing it was clearly a beautiful, if understated, pair of IEMs. But, as any good enthusiast community will do, the bread crumbs and rumors of different projects throughout the years stirred wonderment and conjecture about what it may turn out to be.

Well, the weight is over. I\O Audio is intended to be a premium brand but this first release also emphasizes value. Now, it might seem strange to say that a $600 pair of IEMs is a good value. But, when you look more closely at what is inside of the Volare and the rest of the market it begins to make more sense. 

The Volare is what's known as a tribrid. That means it has three different types of drivers inside of a shell. In particular, it has one dynamic driver (DD), for custom balanced armatures (BA), and four electrostatic drivers (EST). This type of configuration is typically much more expensive, at least if you consider the number of electrostatic drivers. Typically around this price point, you may find sets with two electrostatics. This is well and good, but EST drivers are also very quiet so sets with additional drivers tend to have an audible  difference in their air, atmosphere, and treble detail.

 Electrostatics are also quite expensive even when bought wholesale. What's interesting about this set is that it describes its drivers as SONIC instead of Sonion. It's possible this is a typo but given the set’s price point, I think it's more likely that I\O Audio has simply sourced them elsewhere. While the quality of Sonion drivers is well known, these also perform very well. If going for SONIC brand drivers allows manufacturers to shave hundreds of dollars off their highest performing sets, I am all for it. On the other hand, maybe it's a typo and I\O Audio has found its savings elsewhere.

If so, it certainly isn't in the packaging. The Volare arrives in one of the best boxes I've seen in some time. There are no cartoon characters or anything on the outer sleeve, just a very minimalist box with some information on the back. Take the sleeve off and you'll find the product inside a magnetic box that reminds me a bit of a jewelry box. The IEMs are inside a large leatherette case on the top level. Beneath that, all of the accessories in documentation are broken down into three separate drawers beneath.

I\O Audio is generous with the accessories too. You have 15 pairs of ear tips to help you find the best fit. There are five different types, including four  types of silicone tips and three sizes of memory foam tips. The silicone tips are each a little different in their feel and the size of their bore. The description of each is in chinese, so I'm not sure exactly what it says, but in general more narrow tips result in slightly more bass while wider tips emphasize higher frequencies.

It also comes with a very nice cable. At this price, they almost always do, but the cable included here doesn't feel like a copycat of any other I've seen so far. It's soft and thickly woven with metal hardware. Where it connects to its modular jacks, the metal switches from glossy black to gold with a stylized fastener to screw on to the tip. It looks very good and I love the uniqueness of it compared to most others.

The modular ends ensure compatibility with just about any amp, DAC, dongle, computer, or hi-fi system you might want to plug it into. It comes with a standard 3.5mm jack (and a 6.35mm adapter), a 2.5mm balanced, and a 4.4mm balanced connector. You don’t need balanced in order to drive these but it’s nice to have the extra headroom that balanced amps often provide.

The IEMs themselves are very pretty. They feature minimal, yet striking design that reminds me of the branches of trees, adorned in silver glitter that extends around the edges. They are made of medical-grade resin and are 3D printed to micron level accuracy. They’re smooth, without any hard edges that might become uncomfortable.  

As an UIEM, or universal IEM, they are modeled on an average of the human ear. Though they’re on the larger side and have a slightly larger 6.6mm nozzle, but with the included tips, I was able to find a comfortable fit even when this diameter frequently bothers me. I didn’t experience any ear strain at all with these — which is exactly why I wish more companies included a wide array of tips with their monitors! There’s no reason a $1,000 pair of IEMs, or even a $200 pair, should only come with three pairs to choose from. 

But I digress… I\O Audio did it right.

The 3D printing process also allowed the company to design precision acoustic tubes for each of its driver types. This physical crossover allows for more tuning possibilities for the designer, reduces distortion as waves collide with one another, and improves clarity and separation. There is still an electronic crossover at play, which has also been designed with premium components to ensure its electronics don’t decrease the sound quality. 

The company also customized its dynamic and balanced armature drivers. The dynamic driver is most noteworthy here with the company claiming that it invested over 1,000 hours in its development. Surprisingly, it claims to use a birch dome in a silica-gel suspension. Metal coatings are often used with dynamic drivers but this is the first set I’ve ever heard of to utilize wood. It’s so foreign that I would love to hear more about it but details are rather scarce. They state that it allows for powerful bass with a smooth transition into the mids for a natural sound, which echoes my own listening impressions.

The dynamic driver covers the lows and transitions into the BAs for the low-mids into the highs. The electrostatic drivers cover the high to ultra high frequencies. The electronic crossover is split into four regions to blend these together before being sent out the acoustic tubes. 

I\O Audio Volare - Listening Impressions 

Image Credit: Hawaii Bad Boy via Squig.Link

Support him by subscribing to his channel, Bad Guy Good Audio Reviews

I’ve embedded the frequency response graph from Bad Guy Good Audio Reviews above, an audio YouTuber that has produced some very popular sets of his own over the last several years. More importantly, it breaks down exactly what you’re looking at in each one of the regions to give you a visual representation of the type of sound you can expect. 

If you’ve never heard a tribrid set before, this is a great set to start with. Their low-output , high frequency design makes them inherently an enhancement type of driver. They don’t output the core body of vocals, instruments, or gunshots in games. Instead, they sprinkle their effect like a bit of fairy dust on everything you’re listening to, lending it a little bit of shine. 

Paired with an elevated low-end with deep sub-bass reach, it comes across as a U-shaped set with impressive clarity and an immersively realistic presentation.  The ESTs do a great job of adding a sense of air and atmosphere to the listening experience, as well as adding liveliness to instruments. For gaming, their rumbly bass, plentiful detail, and layered presentation make them a good fit. 

Bass: The low-end on this set reaches deep to give bass a tactile rumble. It’s also rather punchy, so kick drums and explosions have a sense of impact. The dynamic driver is relatively fast, so short bursts of sub-bass start and stop with precision. The detail and texturing isn’t quite to planar level, and the Mangird Xenns Up and Thieaudio Oracle MKII will still give you more, but the low end is well done and very enjoyable. Unless you’re doing a side-by-side comparison, you aren’t likely to find them lacking.

The mid-bass — bass guitars and synths — is fairly powerful but it’s also contained. This makes it pretty versatile across genres from hip-hop to electronica to metal, as well as games. 

Mids: The mids come through clean on this set, though vocals are a touch behind the instruments. They sound natural, however, and aren’t colored by the bass. Instruments sound natural and replete with detail. The piano in Linkin Park’s Breaking the Habit demonstrates the detail retrieval capability of the drivers, nicely presenting piano, guitar, and keyboard cleanly with proper texture and decay. The layering is also very good, which helps accentuate the capability of the drivers. 

Treble: The treble is exceptionally well tuned for long listening sessions. There is lots of detail here without sounding sharp, which is something that can impact EST drivers with boosted highs. Instead, what you get here is percussion that comes forward but sits alongside the other instruments instead of layering on top of them. The ESTs add a crispness to instruments that immediately makes them sound clearer and higher resolution. They also inject a sense of air that gives everything an enhanced sense of atmosphere. This is especially prevalent in songs and games that already provide a bit of reverb atmosphere. It’s excellent. 

Technical Performance, Soundstage, and Imaging: The soundstage on this set is wider than average but isn’t expansive. It sounds like it's coming from outside the ear but I didn’t experience the sense of having sounds come from my natural environment. It’s still very enjoyable but there are better options out there in this regard — like the Oracle MK II. 

The imaging is very good in the stereo sense. There isn’t a sense of verticality to the listening experience, really, but there’s a strong left, right, and center presentation with a bit of depth to keep things in order. 

As mentioned in the prior sections, these IEMs offer good detail retrieval and the drivers are very capable in their technical prowess overall. 

Gaming: I wouldn’t pick this set up for gaming by itself. While its bass and sparkly treble are certainly good for it, the Thieaudio MKII and Hype 4 both deliver more quantity in the low-end which make them more immersive when gaming. Likewise, the soundstage is more limited, though not poor, which means you’ll want to enable Dolby Atmos for the best experience. What I would do is pick these up for music and then use them for gaming if I didn’t have one of those other sets available. It works well enough with tuning and positionality that it won’t leave you disadvantaged in games. If gaming is your first priority, however, I would slide this down a step or two on your ranking list. 

Overall Impressions and Final Thoughts

Overall, I have to say that I really, really enjoy the I\O Audio Volare. Its tonal balance is really enjoyable and delivers “just enough” in every area that it feels very well rounded and fun to listen to. The EST enhancement is more noticeable here than any of the competition I’ve heard around this price point, which makes it a good entry point to the world of higher-end IEMs at a pricey, but very reasonable, price for what you’re getting. As a first product, I\O Audio pretty much nailed it, and I’m very excited to see what it does next. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Articles may include affiliate links from which we may earn a small commission to help support the site. Authors do not earn affiliate revenue or commissions.       

9.0 Amazing
  • Great value for a tribrid
  • Great detail retrieval
  • Comfortable fit
  • Balanced sound with plenty of bass and treble and smooth mids
  • Four ESTs add sparkle and air to music and games
  • Soundstage isn’t the widest
  • Large nozzle could be an issue for smaller listeners


Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight