Whoa, what a hiatus. It has been a few months since I wrote anything on the site (given the pressures of the daily grind, a few changes The Tech Kaiju has to go through, and some opportunities I just can’t let pass) and I must say, I missed it a lot. It always is hard to run a review website alone, but then again, it is quite fulfilling.
So, after that hiatus, it is just right and ideal for me to bring forth something exciting, and I will have to agree; nothing slams a comeback with a bang than an interesting audio piece. I am bringing you today the Audio Varna.
Audio what? Well, the Audio Varna is a relatively new brand coming from the reputed Indonesians when it comes to earbuds. As Indonesia has become the haven for earbuds, the Audio Varna is just one of the newest to come out in the market. I don’t know much people who have it, and given the fact that this came out about a couple of months ago, I am surprised that it didn’t generate much fanfare as other earbuds the country came up with. Maybe because it is indeed quite a new brand (this is the first earbuds the brand has as we speak), I really am not sure. I am not even sure if their marketing team isn’t up to the level of their other competitors, but I will have to admit that the brand can use some serious marketing to match their excellent debut earbud.
So, let’s go ahead and take the earbud to a spin.
As with other earbuds, there’s not much to expect from the earpieces as Audio Varna used a typical shell for their earbuds. Sporting a red and blue shell for the left and right channel, there’s really not much to sneeze at with the shell’s build (using typical plastic material). Seems quite tough though, although the branding can use a bit more flair to scream a bit of interest when it comes to looks department. One small issue for me though is that they used blue shells on the right channel, which is quite unorthodox given the usual color convention of left and right channel (red for right, blue for left). Or maybe because they used red wire shielding on one of the wires on the right channel kind of made them think that it might be enough to identify which goes to the right or left; I still find it a bit confusing at the start. Then again, unless one is too anal about it, it really isn’t much of an issue.
However, what looks pretty interesting is how they designed the wire braiding. Looks nifty to me, I liked how comfy to wear the wires. It is not too supple, perhaps you would want that slightly stiff wires just so to be confident that it won’t give up easily, but still has that suppleness that should make movements easy while wearing the Audio Varna.
Apart from that, the plug seems nice. It is obviously generic, but I would rather this than some other aftermarket plugs which screams “COPY”. At least this has some identity, not exactly trying to mimic any other earbuds.
But the best part perhaps is the packaging. I really dig the round wooden case it came with, with a latch keeping the case sealed. The packaging also came with a small plastic encasement for quite a lot of earbud foams. And, the packaging also comes with straws to boot! (dunno why, perhaps to make it look a lot more nature-like, using case from a bark, but heck it did make a lot of mess on my table when I opened it, lol)
Overall, build is something you won’t say bad, but isn’t spectacular either. I would say that, at least for the price you pay for it, you get as much in terms of build.
While the build doesn’t seem to equate a bang-for-a-buck deal, the sound, in my opinion, makes up for it. Audio Varna carries a sparkly listing on the higher frequencies, quite standing out from the upper mid-range to the trebles. What is somewhat conspicuous though is the slightly thin sounding lower mids, but not too thin to the point that you will miss it. Lower frequencies sound sufficient, not hefty to be considered bassy but definitely is enough to keep your guns running for bass. All in all, it presents a certain character that, if it suits your taste, is something that you will definitely enjoy, otherwise it may sound a bit peculiar as it carries a different kind of tonality not often times found in a lot of earbuds.
Let’s go through and see how it does with some choice tracks I played using it.
Release (Pearl Jam, Ten)
The crisp pluck of guitar strings at the beginning of the track sounded quite distinct, with Eddie Vedder’s vocals being prominent as it fairly harmonizes with the instruments. Drums are definitely resonant, with the sub-bass sounding quite clear and concise. While the track’s genre demands a rather dirty, raunchy sound, Audio Varna did quite a good justice in keeping the track clean and rather emotional. Soundstage is definitely wide but could have been better for my taste. Don’t get me wrong though, it is sufficient, but could probably be mind-blowing given some more tuning and budgeting of course.
Sky Could Undress (Balmorhea, Clear Language)
Typically Balmorhea can blow your wits off with its incredible harmony and instrumentation, and I must say that somehow, Audio Varna played the track quite well. Guitars sounded outstanding, with keyboards jamming well while the drums and chimes blending in such manner that you can easily be lost while listening to the track. I tried the track with the De’Mun Red and the track sounded a bit too thick for my taste, with the bass guitar and percussions a bit too strong, overpowering all other instruments a bit. While Audio Varna may not necessarily hit the tidiness of usual balanced setups, it offered an immaculate approach that made me wonder if going balanced is always better. For such genre, Audio Varna definitely excelled well.
All The Stars (Kendrick Lamar & SZA, Black Panther The Album)
If you wish to enjoy the track’s pounding bass, you might feel a bit left out with the Audio Varna. However, if you would like to enjoy the vocals and the instruments used for the track, then Audio Varna is quite a great catch. It is quite enjoyable to hear how the vocals harmonize with each other, with the instruments being distinct from each other yet still sounding cohesive. Kendrick Lamar’s voice is such a joy to listen to with this earbud, while SZA’s vocals are such a revelation as exhibited by the Audio Varna.
So is the Audio Varna the pair of earbuds that will replace your top-tier earbuds? I will say no, as I still would prefer the Bengkel Macro Edimun V3 over this given my preference. However, considering it’s competitors in the same price range, I must say that the Audio Varna should be on your list. I think it might be something you would want to get given its distinction in terms of tonality, it will hardly be redundant to any of your earbuds. Plus, given its market price ($55), I think it is no brainer to get one, as it will definitely find a home in your earbud stash. Plus, the straw definitely got me upon opening the case.