64 Audio U12t Review
The 64 Audio U12t is one of the hottest IEM currently.
And if there is a headphone brand that is currently hip like no other, it is 64 Audio from the USA. And like many other brands, 64 Audio has its roots in the professional field of in-ear monitor systems. But little by little, it has also played its way into the hearts of many hi-fi enthusiasts.
The 64 Audio U12t is extremely popular and has therefore already found countless fans. On the other hand, the NIO is 64 Audios’ first hybrid aimed more at the discerning music fan than the professional. I have both models here. In the following, I would like to share my impressions of the U12t with you.
- Phenomenal detail retrieval across all frequency ranges
- Refined and musical tuning
- Top tier staging and imaging capabilities – great depth and accuracy
- Excellent dynamic range
- Best in class BA bass with great extension, presence, and suprising amount of slam when called upon
- Natural, smooth, and clean midrange
- Best treble presentation I’ve heard in an IEM
64 audio Description
For some time now, the price spiral at InEars has continued to turn. 64 Audio from Vancouver is involved in this. The current flagship, the tia Forté, is at the very end of all currently available InEars.
64 Audio was founded in 2010 as “1964 Ears” by Vitaliy Belonozhko, a sound engineer. After the renaming of the 64 Audio brand, enthusiastic music lovers and audiophiles are increasingly targeted in addition to the pro audio target group.
The specialists from the USA also have a lot to offer to set themselves apart from conventional in-ears. Sixty-four audio customers can enjoy numerous in-house technologies: tia ™, APEX®, LID ™, and 3D-Fit ™.
TUBELESS IN-EAR AUDIO
The tia ™ technology encompasses a whole concept of driver technology, its placement in the housing, and the housing interior design. As a rule, sound tubes are used inside in-ears with balanced armature drivers. These are used to guide the sound from the individual drivers to the sound output.
64 Audio takes a different approach: Sound tubes and the resonances and distortions that often come with them are not found in the products. Rather, they rely on proprietary, open drivers and specially adapted sound chambers. The sound thus reaches the only exit without any annoying tubes or hoses. This leads to a natural and full sound – just like you know it from loudspeakers.
APEX® | Air Pressure Exchange
With this technology, 64 Audio addresses a common “problem” at INEars. If the ear canal is hermetically sealed by an InEar and air is moved (the driver (s) creates pressure), the eardrum is stressed. This creates a low pressure that can become tiring over time.
The APEX® system compensates for this with the help of various modules. The different modules (m20, m15, MX) also influence – albeit within narrow limits – the sound signature and ambient noise isolation. The number stands for the amount of reduction: 20dB, 15dB and 10dB.
LID ™ | LINEAR IMPEDANCE DESIGN answer.
This technology ensures that the InEar sounds the same at every source – regardless of the output impedance of the playback device.
3D-Fit ™ | Tailor-made 3D fit
This is a principle of digitizing the impressions for adapted custom in-ears in a 3D scanner, optimizing them and then pressing them, not casting them.
Everyone has to find out whether all these technologies lead to a “better” sound in the end. In any case, the effort that 64 Audio puts in is different from that of some other providers. My experience report below revolves around the U12t, my clear favorite of the two. In the text, however, I compare here and there with the NIO so that the reader should also get an idea of it.
Processing and design U12t
The housings are state-of-the-art!
The processing quality of both in-ears is excellent. The robust aluminum housings are flawlessly manufactured and have no manufacturing defects or noticeable gaps. The surfaces are clean and flawless. While the U12t uses a faceplate in a brushed aluminum look, the NIO is decorated with a colorful and stylish mother-of-pearl look.
The base of the receptacle for the 2-pin cable is flat, i.e., the connector is not secured by a recess or similar. Thus, the pins are exposed to radial shear forces without protection. However, not a big deal because the receiver will not be damaged in an emergency, and the cables are replaceable.
The cables are nothing special
They fulfill their purpose (especially on stage), and I only believe in cable sound very subtly anyway. In terms of sound, the line is completely okay. But I find these cables very questionable for the HiFi fan who spends a lot of money on an InEar. The cable is stubborn. It has a nasty wire appeal and gets dirty very easily. There are already higher quality straps in the accessory market. By that, I mean: a better look and, above all, feel. Less affinity for the ball of wool. Flexible and light and loosely falling. It must be feasible!
It isn’t easy to imagine that with 64 audio, you cannot deliver adequate quality here. But, to save your honor, the accessory cable is of secondary importance for many people, especially in this price category, since they use the accessories market anyway.
The cases are great!
The enclosed cases differ: While the U12t comes with a hard case made of plastic, the NIO comes with a round (synthetic?) Leather case. The hard case has a permanent place for the listener. A cable winder is integrated, and there are recesses for a drying capsule and the APEX® modules. This guarantees the best possible protection for professionals.
The NIO, on the other hand, is more stylish in its more design-oriented can but is still very well protected. Accessories such as desiccant capsules and APEX® modules can still be found here – albeit loose.
The housings are relatively small and do not build very deep. An anatomical shape like many UIEMs, e.g., the Vision Ears VE7, is missing here for the last perfect fit. The sound tubes are also relatively short. Nevertheless, the two earphones with silicone tips sit very well with me. Due to the roughly anatomical teardrop shape of the housing with large radii, there are no unpleasant contact points because the shape of the housing adapts perfectly to my concha. The cable routing above the ear gives additional stability and fixes the little miracles safely and comfortably.
The 64 Audio U12t
The 12 drivers (per side!) Of the U12t are exclusively balanced armature drivers. In contrast to the NIO because it uses a dynamic driver in addition to its 8 BA drivers. 64 Audio relies heavily on innovation. Thus the company has a lot of innovative technologies in its portfolio (see above). Of course, the U12t is also full of these technologies. Onboard is tia ™, APEX® (m15 & m20), and LID ™.
Scope of delivery & technical data
The scope of delivery can be seen. You can see right away that 64 Audio at the U12t wants to appeal to the music-making guild. Hard case, drying capsule, cleaning tools. The InEars are designed for frequent work use.
The scope of delivery in detail:
- 64 Audio U12t
- Transport hard case
- Cleaning tool
- Shirt clip
- TrueFidelity foam ear tips (S, M, L)
- Silicone ear tips (S, M, L)
- Detachable 1.2m premium cable
- m20 apex module
- m15 apex module
- Round sticker
And only for those who are interested: Here is the technical data!
- Construction: closed, in-ear monitor
- Driver: 12x balanced armature
- Configuration: 1x tia high, 1x medium high, 6x middle, 4x low
- Frequency response: 10Hz – 20kHz
- Sensitivity: 108dB / mW @ 1kHz
- Impedance: 10 Ohm (+ 1 / -2, 10Hz – 20kHz)
- Crossover: Integrated 4-way passive crossover
- Isolation: -20dB and -15dB through the included apex modules
- Connection: 2Pin
- Cable length: 1.2m
- Terminal device: 3.5mm mini-jack, angled
Let’s get to the core – the sound. A lot of effort in proprietary technologies does not necessarily mean that the sound quality is good. In the case of the two 64 Audio InEars, I can say that both sound fantastic, each in a different way with a different focus on tonality and technology.
The 64 Audio U12t is one of the company’s most popular headphones, and I can now confirm that it is right because the coordination of the in-ear is immediately fascinating. There are three approaches to how you can vote on an InEar.
On the one hand, you can try to aim for a neutral reproduction. In other words, to realize a balanced frequency curve that does not neglect or emphasize any area in the spectrum. But, on the other hand, a very light emphasis on individual areas is allowed here. Such listeners are usually predestined for studio work or live performances. Representatives of this group are, for example, the Etymotic ER4XR (test), the Software RSV (test), or a custom in-ear like the Hearos Pro IV (test).
The second group is that of specialists. Bass monsters, throwers. Here, one or more frequency ranges are deliberately emphasized to meet suitability for specific musical styles or personal preferences. Examples of this are the Campfire Audio Polaris II (test), which reaches the bass, or the Cayin Fantasy (test), which has extremely detailed and outstanding highs. Listeners in this category can no longer be described as “neutral” – but sometimes they are in a crazy mood!
The third group is exactly the intersection of the two mentioned. These are listeners who are, on the one hand, very balanced, but on the other hand, still, have enough emphasis so as not to sound boring to the consumer. My favorite listeners can also be found here.
I would also classify the 64 Audio U12t in this last category. Its sound signature is extremely captivating, mainly due to the very good bass reproduction, a wide and detailed presentation, and pleasant and present highs. Overall, however, the InEar is still balanced with an only slight warmth to cope with any genre and can also serve as a precision tool. Its tuning is analytical, musical at the same time, and simply pleasant to hear.
I see the NIO in the border area between the third and second group because its bass is already very clearly emphasized and, therefore, too much of a good thing for my preferred style of music, metal.
The U12t Bass is its flagship. He is tight, dry, and authoritarian. Above all, the precise texture sets it apart from that of many other in-ears with BA drivers. It can be compared here with the Vision Ears VE7, which plays precisely, quickly, and textured here but is a touch more emphasized in the deep bass.
The bass of the NIO is a little less precise but much more voluminous and, unfortunately, also softer – so less suitable for me and metal. On the other hand, friends of jazz and EDM, pop, and moderate rock should have as much fun with the NIO.
In the middle
In the middle, the U12t scores with clarity and richness of detail. It plays extremely precisely and without discoloration, brings the smallest details clean to the ear, and is matched to the reference. In the lower mids – in the transition to the bass range – it is warmed up just enough to sound musical instead of clinical. Nevertheless, it is transparent and defined, especially in dense productions as they often occur in power metal. Voices are full and present, have a natural timbre and authenticity.
With the highs, we find the right counter-pool to the fantastic bass. Because here, too, the U12t enchants with a brilliant set-up. It seems as if 64 Audio has found the sweet spot between analytical and music-crazy pretty perfectly here. It is becoming increasingly clear that the U12t is masterfully tuned. Not neutral, but incredibly balanced.
When it comes to imaging, the U12t makes full use of the APEX® technology. Accordingly, it sounds very open, spatial, and plastic. Not like a cramped, closed in-ear! Furthermore, the sound stage reveals a corresponding width and depth, thus creating a three-dimensional soundscape and ensuring an extremely airy presentation. This is exactly what makes the U12t the perfect play partner for games, movies, and series.
And again, we see a prime discipline: clean and differentiated tracks in the mix must be analyzed. Nothing gets stuck anywhere. Everything is clearly defined and delimited. The balanced frequency response creates a clear and finely resolved structure that is transparent to the last detail.
If it fits, then it fits: the very good fit of the housing naturally comes into play here. Depending on the module, the U12t insulates well passively. With the m20, you are decoupled from the environment. Great when traveling – or on stage. Although the expensive in-ear would be a shame for both …
So far, I only know the NIO and the U12t from 64 Audio. The NIO is too thick for me in the bass. However, the U12t clicked into place straight away. And with power. You can tell in every note that 64 Audio understands its craft and cleverly uses specially developed technologies such as APEX and tia to create a “perfect” sound. With its well-placed and precisely dosed accentuation, it scores with a balanced and, at the same time, extremely fun sound that is thrilling. So I can understand why the U12t is so popular.