Accutone Pavo: An Affordable Hybrid IEM That Sounds Like Strong Warrior
However, I’ve never been so thoroughly satisfied a product of theirs. Almost every build-quality complaint I’ve had before lies dead at the feet of the Pavo, and the sound quality is a head above even their flagship IEM, the Gemini HD. I must ask myself: was is smart for Accutone to release such a good earphone for just $51?
As of writing, the Pavo is not yet for sale. However, fret not! The Pavo will go on sale on the official Accutone website on August 1st. Find the official Pavo announcement here.
This review is based upon a sample unit provided to me by a manufacturer in exchange for my honest opinion and un-edited words. I do not profit in any way from the writing of the review. I would like to thank Mr. Lau and Mr. Jensen at Accutone for providing me with this pre-release press unit.
Preference and Bias:
Before reading a review, it is worth mentioning that there is no way for a reviewer to objectively pass judgment on the enjoy-ability of a product: such a thing is inherently subjective. Therefore, I find it necessary for you to read and understand what I take a natural liking to and how that might affect my rating of a product.
My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, bass. The mids should be slightly less pronounced than the treble, but still ahead of the bass. I prefer a more bright upper range.
The Pavo was powered off of a Nexus 6P -> Creative Sound Blaster E3. All music was served as FLAC, ALAC, or as 320Kbps Mp3. I found the standard DAC/Amp inside my phone and PC to be adequate to drive the Pavo at near-peak levels of quality. However, for consistency’s sake, I’ve chosen to drive the Pavo off my E3.
Treble: Songs used: White Flag, Arise, Outlands
The Pavo is a hybrid-driver earphone. It uses a single balanced armature driver as the tweeter, and a single dynamic driver as the woofer. This means that each of the two drivers can focus on reproducing their respective sound frequencies, theoretically improving sound quality and detail. Luckily for us, it seems to have payed off. While not neutral with the rest of the sound, the Pavo’s treble is pretty darn good. When listening to my classical tracks, I often forgot I was listening to a $51 pair of earphones.
White Flag is a song that really showcases how delicately the Pavo can reproduce upper treble and acquire details that are out of the grasp of many lesser IEMs. The layered vocal sampling during the chorus comes through beautifully, as does the pop-synth. The light strumming of guitar in the background is retrieved just as well on the Pavo as it is on my RHA MA750i — an accolade few IEMs I’ve tested can claim.
The good news continues into Arise. The high-hats are separated well from the rest of the song, as is the high-pitched strumming during the first and second verses. However, I found the high-hats’ decay to be too slow during the chorus, clouding up their respective spaces within the song.
I’ve chosen to switch out Fade Into Darkness with Outlands, by Daft Punk. I feel that it pushes the headphones I test further, and demands more of them in order to produce a realistic and convincing reproduction of the song. Thankfully, the Pavo does not come up short. The boosted treble frequencies really do help the violins and cymbals push through the rest of the song. Furthermore, small details that were often barely audible on previous headphones I’ve tested are textured and detailed, seeming not to care whether or not they had to site behind a couple other layers of sound.
Mids: Songs used: The Drift, Jars, I Am The Highway
The Drift blew me away when I first listened to it. While it’s not as analytic an experience as with the RHA MA750i, I find the Pavo to be very good at reproducing fun and engaging mids. I did, however, find the violins to be a tad too soft.
Unfortunately, Jars suffers a little bit from the warmth present in the lower-mids. The guitars that are normally fairly solid on more neutral headphones feel loose. It’s actually a little frustrating, sort of like when you take a picture that has great colors and composition, but is oh-so-slightly out of focus. But don’t let my complaining fool you — it was still a good listen, just not as perfect as I wanted it to be.
I love I Am The Highway. It’s one of my favorite songs, and I must have listened to it hundreds of times now. I’m not going to sit here and tell you about how listening to it through the Pavo changed my life (spoiler alert, it didn’t), I didn’t hear anything new. I didn’t discover little flaws in the recording, and I didn’t see any angels from above. However, I did get a very good overall presentation. Contrary to Jars, the guitars of I Am The Highway were detailed, separated, and textured. The vocals were engaging and forward. I didn’t have any trouble distinguishing background guitars. However, the Pavo did miss a couple of details here and there.
Bass: Songs used: Lights, Bangarang, 99 Problems (Hugo Cover)
Lights is a song ripe with opportunity for an IEM to showcase its bass impact. The Pavo does put up a good fight, but ultimately failed to deliver the tight bass-punch to the jaw I crave from my headphones. Bass is there in quantity, don’t get me wrong, it’s just too rumbly. Does it sound bad? No, not at all. It’s just not what I want, and not what I look for in an IEM from this song.
However, it seems that the Pavo’s rumble is not all bad news; Bangarang was far more enjoyable than it was on the Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2 and the RHA MA750i. It actually outperforms the Gemini and Gemini HD, two IEMs which boast strong bass response and solid levels of punch and rumble.
99 Problems benefited greatly from the warm tinge present in the Pavo’s lower range. The bass guitar and drums sounded very full and bodied, making the song sound better overall.
Clarity: Songs used: Throne, Map of The Problimatique, I’m Not Alright
Throne was reproduced admirably. I found separation to be on-par, and did not notice any distortion what-so-ever — another impressive achievement, given the difficulty my other IEMs have with this song. Map Of The Problimatique fared just as well.
I’m Not Alright was not as clear as I would have liked. There was a lot of loss in the background instrumentation, only allowing details to come through when the foreground grew quieter.
Male Vocals: Song used: Hotel California, Ashes of Eden, Sunday Bloody Sunday
I had a great time listening to all three of my test songs. However, I noticed that there is consistently a softness to the vocals. That being said, their timbre was overall pleasing and quite immersive at times.
Female Vocals: Songs used: Stupid Girl, Sweet Escape, Need Your Heart
Female vocals were very good, and lacked the softness that the male vocals had. I found it easy to get lost in the sound of Kai’s voice in Need Your Heart. Stupid Girl and Sweet escape, songs who’s vocal styles are polar opposites, both sounded great. No real complaints there.
Sound staging is decent, but not great. It can compete well with many IEMs twice the price. The soundstage isn’t super wide, but actually has height. For $51, this is a flaw I can forgive. However, the strength of the Pavo doesn’t lie with the size of its soundstage; it lies with the instrumental separation and airy reproduction that it bestows onto the songs you listen to, so long as they aren’t too busy.
Packaging / Unboxing
The Pavo feels like it’s tightly put together, but not tanky. You can tell that, while made from recycled aluminum, the casing isn’t as solid as other metallic offerings from the likes of RHA and Echobox. The Accutone branding on the back of the driver housings is scratchable, so you will want to be careful what you put it in your pocket with.
Thankfully, Accutone seems to have realized that they need to implement a better cable stress-relief system than they did on their previous IEMs. The Pavo has a 1/5 inch long extension of a plastic stress guard on each of the driver housing s— an inclusion I approve of. If the plastic were a tad more malleable, it would do a better job diffusing mechanical stress.
The cable is thin — something that may turn off some people. While it does appear to be “cheap” I find it to be rather durable. Whether it was a choice to cut costs or simply an odd styling choice, I find the cable to be functionally acceptable, if not aesthetically.
The inline controls are completely plastic. However, they don’t feel cheap like they do on the Gemini HD (oh the irony). The buttons are tactile and clicky, and are satisfying to push. No complaints here.
The y-splitter has a very well-hidden cable cinch (I think that’s the word?) made from aluminum. Due to the inclusion of inline controls, you can’t slide it up very far, but it still does the job mitigating microphonics.
Unfortunately, we don’t get a 45 or 90 degree 3.5mm jack. This is one of the major complaints I have. It’s not that much more more expensive of an inclusion, and extends the lifespan of the cable — something important for headphones without a detachable cable.
Comfort is passable. There aren’t any included Comply eartips. However, I can half-forgive them because the stock eartips are comfortable, if not good at isolating noise. The housing is rather light, and shouldn’t cause any drag.
The Pavo was par for the course in terms of accessories. It comes with a leatherette carrying case, a shirt clip, as well as three extra sets of silicone eartips. I am a little surprised at the exclusion of Comply eartips, as the Gemini, a similarly priced product from Accutone did indeed have them. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find a pair of Comply eartips that do fit, as the nozzle size is fairly standard.
The Pavo is a fighter; it comes out swinging from the budget pricing bracket, and is unapologetically good at what it does. While not aesthetically perfect, the Pavo brings a detailed and well-toned V-shaped sound signature to the table that I find really compelling. For $51, you might not be able to find a better deal.