For a long time 1964 Ears have been one of the bigger names in the CIEM industry to both musicians and audiophiles alike. Since my earlier days in the industry this team has done a lot to expand their line up but it was only recently we saw an extreme overhaul. Every little area of the brand has seen a makeover, they now go by 64 Audio for a start, they got a new factory/lab for making the goods and more importantly we have a brand new range of products, the ADEL series, which for the first time ever for 64, offers universals. The dramatic change has all come about because of a new technology that they have been putting a lot of research into along with Stephen Ambrose of Asius Technologies, ADEL. Until now 64 have been one of the few CIEM brands to elude my ears but I have now gone right into the deep end and got their two most expensive models, the A Series A10 & A12. The number standing for the driver count of course. While originally 1964 Ears was a brand that boasted US made CIEMs with a great value offering and cheaper prices compared to the bigger competition such as JH and UE, the new ADEL technology has seen prices increase quite heavily, unless you were lucky and got one during the Kickstarter campaign, the very successful one may I add. The A12 is obviously the most expensive and comes a cent under $2000 and the A10 is a bit less at $1,799, both however are at the upper end of the market in terms of price. Oddly the universal versions are cheaper, $400 cheaper to their respective custom version actually (the gap closes as we lose drivers). Most companies now days such as Noble and JH just price the universals and customs the same so thats a cool way of getting a very similar product (ADEL and I think same drivers, same crossovers etc) for a cheaper price, and without the hassle of impressions and two way shipping. That being said I have not tried the universal models.
I will quickly say the order process was a breeze, go through the on site designer, pay, send impressions and then patiently follow the build updates until they are with you, in my case 4 weeks later.
This is the big mix up here, the thing that stands 64 apart from the rest of the CIEM brands and most exciting is that this is just the beginning. An Ambrose Diaphonic Ear Lens (ADEL) is not your usual gimmick, it is not simply a tuning port or something that will lose its appeal after 10 minutes of toying. The idea of ADEL for the most part is actually much more important than any sound scoping add on to a product I have seen because it prioritises your hearing above all else. We can do some more detailed reading on the technology here and here but the basic principle is that the sound waves come from your earphones in two-forms. One of these is the good stuff, the sound waves but they normally come with air pressure/pneumatic pressure and that moves our ear drums quite vigorously causing annoyance over longer listening periods and potential even hearing loss in later life, something none of us want. There are also sonic drawbacks from this air pressure such as distortion. On the faceplate of ADEL universal and custom fit models is a little port that holds a membrane which acts as an ear drum, sucking in that pneumatic pressure so our ear drum doesn’t have to, ideally leading to both no hearing problems later on and better sound.
Now the membrane is put in the faceplates port via an ADEL module, which is something that we will see a vast range of as we move forward. Any A or U series product comes preinstalled with a pair of Auto Modules ($99 for a spare pair) and the idea of these is best summed up by Steve Keeley, a representative of both Ambrose Technologies and 64 Audio.
“They’re a fixed tension at a sweet spot between isolation and fidelity. If you were to imagine ADEL being totally closed off and fully isolating, being a 0. And being completely open with the least isolation, the auto is sorta fixed somewhere between 65-70 in terms of openness.”
Basically its where 64 think is a good place to start. It offers 18dB of sound isolation which is a bit less than your normal CIEM but clearly comes with the benefit of feeling open. This however only bridges the gap to their Manual ADEL Module (MAM) which will see release very soon for $200. This allows you to swizzle the built on knob and have the MAM at anywhere between open, fully closed and anywhere in between, so you can match the auto module (not quite actually) but also do a lot more. While in terms of frequency response it is the bass that will be the obvious changer, it is not as simple a difference as say with the JH Siren Series bass pots because you are actually changing how open the earphone is and that effects soundstage, air, separation and more.
Going forward there may be a stepped version of the MAM and also a rather intriguing module, where it will offer great isolation but with the module being fully open, how they will pull that off I have no idea.
Having talked to an Asius rep in Steve (Keeley not Ambrose himself) I have been truly won over by what they are doing. They seem genuine in their approach and truly want to prevent hearing loss and give back to those who already suffer. While passive ADEL that we are currently seeing is the start, active ADEL will be a thing of the future and is something they are already demoing at shows. Instead of the usual acrylic (or silicone shells) of CIEMs, soon they will not need impressions and be a bubble material that will blow up to the shape of your ear. While that again may sound cool but not needed, there is more to it than simply easy fit because the material will also be vibrating and that can do some inspiring things. To people with poor hearing or even no hearing in one ear, it will allow them to hear in what they perceive as stereo once again, and without exaggeration it seems to already be changing peoples lives. Here are 1, 2 and 3 examples. Here is Steve again with a great explanation of how this is possible and while it will benefit even us with fine hearing.
“What’s happening is the bubble in each ear is vibrating as that sound is being delivered through the armatures, as well delivering sound right to your ear drum through a typical manner like a normal ear bud. The sound is being conducted across your head, through the pockets behind your face (eye sockets and nasal cavities), to the cochleas on both sides. In somebody that has hearing in both ears, it creates unmatched spatial effects and imaging, because of the dual delivery.
When somebody has hearing in one ear, the one working cochlea picks up the sound from both sides, while having vibration through the bubbles in both ears. Your brain differentiates between the one cochlea receiving sound and your ears having this vibration in both sides. That’s why Stephen said “feels like you’re hearing” because your brain blends the two signals of vibration and the one ear hearing, to deliver the effect of hearing in both ears.
Think of it as having somebody tap on a microphone, as well as blowing into it. You have that happening on both sides, if you naturally have hearing on both ears. But if you have no auditory nerve, you aren’t able to hear that microphone being blown in. Still being tapped upon, however. The brain completes the cross conduction and fills in the gap for that faulty microphone by connecting the dots with the tapping in that ear. Giving the person the effect of stereo listening.”
Now ADEL is Asius Technologies work and they are currently licensing this first to 64 Audio. So while Passive ADEL is the only ADEL on the market, 64 will be the sole users of it. When Active ADEL comes round they will license Passive ADEL out to other brands leaving 64 as the sole users of Active ADEL. You get the gist (I am pretty sure this is how things will go down). I am happy that other brands will eventually get hold of this tech, not because I have a problem with 64’s products but because I think everyone should have access to hearing protection, that’s why whenever I have a choice of what earphones I can wear, one of these pairs will now be my priority, because I can’t risk my hearing.
Going from the less normal to the more regular CIEM stuff and another big change for 64 was the move to 3D printing. This happened on the week I put my orders in and took away a lot of shell colour options with it. We went from most colours under the sun to just 3 shell options (2 at time of my order) but we did keep all faceplate customisation which is quite broad. For shells you can now only have clear which I opted for on both, black and finally a new translucent charcoal. Fortunately faceplates have as many options as you can expect without going into Heir territory. You have a range of 6 wooden and 5 premium faceplates that cost an additional $50 per channel and also the ability to put rhinestones over the top of them. If a fancy faceplate is not for you then custom artwork is an option, you just have to upload what you want on the monitor, line it up and voila, they will do the rest. I fancied trying both options and went for Wenge wood on my A10 (silver ADEL logo over the top) and then custom artwork on my A12, some characters from my favourite game Super Smash Bros to be precise. My A10 had an extra $100 of options and my A12s artwork was $70. Their virtual design builder is top notch and can be played with here. It makes visualising your designs really easy, which is ideal when you have a lot of options.
The clear shells are very clean and the 3D printing leaves no bubbles apart from as we move to the nozzle. You can see the balanced armature drivers just fine inside and even the way the ADEL module plunges in. On the sound nozzles you can also see the path of the 4 bores (1 is dedicated to the ADEL membrane) that work as a sound output, two smaller ones and two bigger ones. Due to housing a lot of drivers both have big shells and hang out my normal sized ears a little, only my JH Roxanne is bigger. Having two faceplate options has left me more impressed with their wood option than artwork. The artwork is presented exactly as I set out but colours are weak and lack contrast. The image also seems a little pixelated, maybe that was down to the image I provided but it was high res to my knowledge. The wood however is lovely. I like how it sits under a clear shell that has the 64 Audio and ADEL logo and also how the grain lines up so well.
The cable that is included is a sturdy but pretty standard 4 braid with some memory wire up top and just a bit of heat shrink as a y-split. A plastic tube acts as a cable cinch. I like that they still use 2 pin connectors when a lot of companies are going to the not as good MMCX. I have the cable in black on my A12 and silver on A10.
Having two sets of modules I have experienced swapping them over and I guess as of right now that can be a little stressful. The MAMs actually come out easy but the autos not so much. I fortunately have a bit of a nail at the moment but it took a lot of force to pop it out and with a lack of control in doing so, it flew out of my grasp when it did finally pop. With their price tag losing them would be a shame. My nail is also really sore if you don’t mind me whining a little. Some kind of tool does seem like something that could go a long way in user ease. Also worth noting is the current MAM has no guidelines on the setting you are using. It does force you to find what works best individually, especially as both ears may need slightly different settings but it could drive your inner OCD crazy, it certainly does mine, as does how hard it is to adjust the MAM, I can’t figure out an efficient way to do it. To make adjustment easier when worn my MAMs have a bit of marker on each channel to determine which is which but changing back and forth between modules has rubbed this off, a little engraving would be ideal.
The presentation of these is actually a little more unusual than the norm. Instead of the usual otter box (pelican) we have a purpose built case, that I think was an extra for doing so well on Kickstarter. They are smaller little rectangle cases that hold accessories as well as having individual cut outs for each monitor and a winder for the cable. It also keeps the shirt clip and cleaning tool put in the case and a spot to have the dehumidifier patch. Overall a very professional and clean packaging experience and I like the unique case and way it holds all included accessories.
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