QoA Aviation Review — Headfonics Leave a comment

In this feature, we review the QoA Aviation, which is a hybrid triple balanced armature and single custom dynamic driver universal in-ear monitor. It is priced at $199.

Disclaimer: This sample was sent to us in exchange for our honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or status. We thank the team at QoA for their support.

Click here to read more about the QoA or Queen Of Audio gear we have previously highlighted on Headfonics.

This post follows our current scoring guidelines which you can read in more detail here.

QoA Aviation Review

The QoA Aviation is a solidly-built hybrid IEM, with good looks to back up a pleasant sound. The added benefit of genres-specific listening makes for an interesting listen; and choice. Good to very good for jazz and Indy music, but not quite so good for pop and EDM, making the Aviation almost too specific.

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8.3

Pros

Sound provides a smooth, yet engaging signature

Attractive design

Good fit and tip choice

Cons

Cable can be a bit finicky

Queen of Audio, or Q0A IEMs, are quite popular in the affordable bracket, with excellent build and sound, which many have come to like.

We reviewed the QoA Pink Lady back in 2020, with Michael calling it “a steal for the price, but not a genre master or all-arounder, instead calling the smooth signature “relaxing.”

Today, we will be looking into their new IEM, the Aviation, a 4-driver unit, which retails for $199.

QoA Aviation tech highlights
Copyright QoA 2023

Tech Highlights

The QoA Aviation is a 4-driver per side universal IEM with a bulbous fitting shell. It houses one dynamic driver. (8mm, full range), and three balanced armatures (dual Knowles 32873 drivers for midrange and treble response, and one Knowles 33518 for the ultra-high frequency band).

The Aviation has a sensitivity of 118 dB @1kHz and a somewhat high (for an IEM) 39Ω impedance rating, but overall, it is a sensitive and fairly easy-to-drive IEM on paper.

QoA Aviation comfort isolation

Design

The Aviation has a 3D-molded, printed shell smoothed by hand polishing. It comes in two stunning hand-painted colors, Mirage and Galaxy (our review sample). The typical conch nub is present to help fit inside your ear.

The three-piece unit fits together smoothly due to hand polishing. A vent hole is on the back side, as opposed to the inside, allowing the dynamic driver to breathe.

The silver nozzle has an ornate silver ring around the three-hole patterned sound tubes, which is the first I have seen. Those sound tubes are inset into a molded form and set inside the nozzle ring. 

The overall design is as expected at this price. I had no trouble wearing the Aviation for long periods, even if the bulbous shape was a bit larger than I preferred. The unit stuck out slightly from my ears, but not by an unacceptable amount.

QoA Aviation eartips

Comfort and Isolation

While the Aviation is on the larger size, I was able to wear the unit for extended listening sessions, bordering on 5 hours. The size did not hinder my listening pleasures, and the included tips afforded excellent isolation.

This is about as large of an IEM as I can comfortably get away with, and using the included silicon tips aided in the comfort.

The pre-bent ear hook from the cable lays nicely behind my ear without issue, and I appreciate the added length. That added length helps provide the right weight, which also helps keep the cable in place.

QoA Aviation Stock Cable
Copyright QoA 2023

Stock Cable

The included four-wire cable is a bit sticky, but this works to its advantage. Somewhat stiff as well, the cable laid nicely while being used and did not tangle. The high-purity stock cable is a 5N OCC 4-core braided copper cable with a coaxial Litz structure.

The cable has 0.78mm 2-pin connectors (bare, with no cover) and a replaceable termination plug. Included are both 3.5mm and 4.4mm plugs.

A nice round silver cinch is included above the Y-splitter, which fits rather loosely. Even with the looseness, the cinch stays in place once moved due to the tactile feel of the cable. This is the right amount of give and take.

The looseness continues with the wrap of the cable itself, but this again helps, allowing a good feel to the cable with no tangling. The long ear hooks are supple in their bend, allowing for a good fit behind my ears without bother while staying in place.

QoA Aviation carry case

Packaging & Accessories

The Aviation comes in a medium-to-small-sized box, adorned with the necessary specifications and pictures. The lighter blue coloring adds a light touch to the packaging, which is a nice departure from an all-black box.

Inside mounted in medium-firm foam inserts are the two different cable jacks, the IEMs set apart, and the excellent white over dark blue case on the right.

The tips (6 sets in S, M, L, and vocal or balanced tuned) are set in a thin plastic case, which also fits into the top pouch of the case.

It seems to me that many companies are taking the tip treatment more seriously regarding protection. Thinner cases for the tips also fit nicely into the IEM carrying case.

Two reference cards finish off the accessories, with the requisite specifications and QR codes for more information.

Carry Case

The pleather case in white on top and blue below is square, with an almost cubic dimension. This is one of the taller cases I have encountered of late.

I appreciate the added depth for the extra tips and jack, as well as not having to wind the cable tightly. It is well made, with solid stitching and a hard velour surface, which works well for the Aviation.

A snap enclosure ensures that the case is closed, instead of the normally available magnetic systems.

Sound Impressions

The following sound impressions were completed using a mixture of the Cayin N6ii with the E01 motherboard and the Shanling M6 Pro DAP. 

Summary

The QoA Aviation presents a vibrant, smooth character with an even frequency response. A small peak at 3kHz gives resolve to the upper mid-region.

Another fairly steep peak at the 8kHz region (then drop) adds brilliance in the treble region but without too much peakiness or sparkle. The drop after the 8kHz peak makes for a vibrant, but not overly exuberant, signature.

Bass

There is no denying that the Aviation is slanted towards the lower end. There is a fair amount of rumble on bass-heavy tracks, with a slowness to it that makes the overall character a bit loose. The slow nature makes for a warmer signature, which can become mellow but not boring.

The smooth character across the low end extends fairly deep, giving the rumble I hear in more than one genre. This will not be mistaken for a bass head IEM, but there is good authority to the low end, which gives the signature a good foundation.

The slow attack and almost as slow decay make for good note thickness but without enough detail for me. Bass notes do come across with good weight and texture as a result, sending that smoothness up into the mids, but lacking the authority of quicker-responding drivers.

Mids

That good weight of notes extends into the mid-section, providing a richness and vibrancy that is neither too powerful nor lacking in energy. There is a good balance, but the transparency of the notes does suffer a bit due to the need to “help” the bass into the next realm.

Powerfully forward but not in your face would be a good description of the mids. The slight peak in the upper-mid and presence regions makes for energetic guitar licks and cymbal presentation, countering the slower-than-bass sound.

Forward and lifted, but not with the authority of some in this price range, the mids provide an excellent counter to the bass, doing so without becoming tedious.

Vibrancy and energy abound but do not become tiresome. I think this is helped by the bleed of the bass into the lower mids, providing a seamless transitional platform.

Vocals in this range come across as smooth, without the usual overzealousness often heard from manufacturers in this range. What could have become shouty vocals becomes energetic but with good character in the smooth presentation.

QoA Aviation paired with Shanling M6 Pro

Treble

The cymbal presence felt in the mids carries over into the brilliance region, especially with the 7kHz peak. But the decay is speedy enough (and the drop from the peak) to make that brilliance less lingering and less bothersome.

Yes, it could be construed as peakiness, but the drop is rapid enough so that the spike does not inhibit smoothness.

The balanced armatures do their job well here as a result, giving energy and vibrancy to the clarity, but without too much. Some genres can become thin here such as vibrant guitar solos, taking on a somewhat harsh spike, but other genres take care of business better.

That guitar energy is valued by some who want to hear each note individually for the feel, but for my listening, it can become a bit tedious.

That clarity pairs almost perfectly with a detailed treble note, which adds to the vibrancy mentioned above. Some will count this as a plus; others will find it a bit too much.

Dynamics

While the treble region counters the bass and the mids try to hold all of this together, there is a rolling off up top, which hinders overall dynamics.

This is a unit where the sum is greater than the parts, but that “infighting” leads to a lack of imaging and technical abilities. The Aviation is quite pleasant if we do not look too closely at the details.

Staging

Imaging suffers due to the parts working separately, but when combined, it makes for a good listen nonetheless. This is for a more organic, musical sound than a detail-driven clarity sound. Think analog versus digital.

The soundstage is above average in all three dimensions, with a more lifted signature than 3D to me. The mids try pulling the ends up and succeed in presenting a full stage, but without enough detail.

This soundstage works better on acoustic instrument presentations, giving room for the notes to breathe as opposed to the succinct nature of digital or electric music. There is too much smooth character for instruments such as electric guitars or keyboards. Constrained, but still listenable.

The Aviation presents an organic signature, which may not play well with genres such as EDM but will with acoustic elements or jazz.

Click on page 2 below for our recommended pairings and selected comparisons.

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