Super Smash Sound
The A series has no less than 8 models within the range and it ended up that I would try two of them. While the A12 could well be the obvious choice to many being the flagship and all, the A10 always caught my eye due to it being said to be brighter and less bassy than the A12 based on the little frequency bar charts 64 give for comparison of models. While I was certainly intrigued by the A12, I couldn’t help but get the idea that the A10 may be more for me, since I like something a little more neutral and analytical. So lets have a look at both and see how they compare and stack up to the presentations 64 had in mind.
(while impedance is low the ADEL tech makes these even easier to drive, they get loud quick)
The A12 I think 64 get spot on, saying it is an earphone that goes down hill slightly from sub bass to treble. It is a warm and rich earphone that is thick and engaging. It is coloured and not one of my most transparent or honest CIEMs but a musical and lush experience without doubt. Now based on the online chart comparisons I expected the A10 to be a completely different type of sound. It shows both less bass and more treble. In fact the A12 should have more of everything except treble. The A10 certainly is not a bright earphone though, or one that is hugely different to the A12, it has less bass but is very similar other than that. Obviously I am speculating but I am pretty sure the 10 drivers in the 10 are doing identical things in the A12 with that model just having two drivers adding to the lower region of the bass a bit. You get more bass variance in my JH Audio Roxanne than you do between these two models. Owning both the A10 and A12 is less versatile than just the JH Roxanne in my opinion. It seems a bit lazy to me, JH have two 12 drivers that sound completely different in all regards and I really wish the same was to be said about the 10 and 12 in this range but it doesn’t seem to be the case. The 10 doesn’t have more treble, I mean seriously!!! (disclaimer you may likely perceive more treble with the A10 as it has less bass so less shroud over the treble)
As I have said the biggest difference is the bass and I think this comes as the A12 is a fatter, wetter and more enveloping response while the A10 is dryer with less decay and overall gain. I will be honest and say the bass difference is really obvious and does allow these to be their own earphone and if you’re not a huge fan of big bass the 10s snappier and cleaner presentation will do you more justice than the sometimes bellowing and often rumbling 12’s. The Game and Lil Wayne just came on and they suited the A12 so much more. Fortunately I don’t find the A12’s bass excessive at all times, listening to some Jason Mraz or Passenger and I find the bass is not hot headed and maintains balance well, making the A12 sound much more akin to the A10 compared to when you’re listening to say, some Skrillex or Macklemore. The A12 does do a great job of layering as well, which is possible due to extension and quantity, it is a big bass with detail. The technicality lover in me prefers the A10s bass but some times nothing quite mesmerises to the level of the A12.
Moving into the midrange I do feel that the A12 is again the slightest touch richer with a tad more decay compared to a dryer A10 but seriously this is only because of how the bass transits into the midrange, nothing more. Both are tonally well balanced, both are smooth and both are really dynamic. What impressed me the most is why I can hear a tad of bass influence in the A12 compared to the A10, it is still not over done on decay, not favouring lower mids or male vocals, and actually incredibly meaty but honest in timbre.
A10 midrange is leaner and also a bit airier. It feels a little more open towards female vocals but for the most part it is has a lot of the same properties, as the A12. It is impressively accurate and real sounding, with no extra decay but not in the sense of some more anaemic models. I also find the midrange presence to be pretty spot on with both my 64’s. It is always positioned just right in the mix!
With the A12s the treble is the area that leaves me wishing for more the most. It is for the most part a little withdrawn, easily the least present frequency range, just as 64 state on their website. Now while that doesn’t come as much of a surprise and as the intended result, is no negative of the earphone. What I wish was just a little better was the timbre, as it comes off just a bit tinny at times, not the smoothest like the rest of the earphone. I would say this is because oddly we have a bit less presence at 5kHz compared to the higher regions, instead of the usual theme of it being other way round. It’s not uncomfortable and due to its moderation not fatiguing, but when you have a complete top tier CIEM in all other regards, I just wish the quality of treble could match the Hidition Viento-R or Heir Audio 10.A, even if it is more recessed compared to those. That being said, it does do the darker sound some favours, still possessing some 10khz energy for a bit of sparkle here and there and not losing all sense of balance.
Again with less bass the A10 does give the impression of more treble, because it is not as veiled and also there is a more linear frequency response. That being said I would not categorise it as bright, but is obviously more balanced than with the A12. The A10 is certainly cleaner in treble but I would still say it has that more brittle treble like the A12 and for the same reasons.
Now when it comes to the soundstage these just run away with the prize. With any module other than the manual one completely closed, these offer so much space and air in their presentation and are just so large in their soundstage. It really is like comparing a good open back can like the HD800 to a closed back like the ZMF Blackwood. While other CIEM’s such as the Roxanne had great width and the Viento-R awesome depth, none have had the overall size and spatial qualities of this and imaging even betters than of the UERM. I will also add that the A10 is clearer and better at separating instruments than the A12.
Now I know throughout this section I have pretty much ignored everything to do with the different modules I own. Now this is because with both the auto and manual module and however you set it, the overall sound signature stays pretty much the same, even with the vents at their least bassy, because it is only really the deep bass that sees reduction so the balance of the CIEM is not impacted. That is not to say the sound is not noticeably different because it is. While the differences in bass you will pick up on, it is the overall presentation that seems to be more noticeable. The expansion of space and improvement in instrument separation are real. I honestly prefer listening to these as with MAMs as open as possible. It is the most expansive and I favour losing a touch of bass weight in favour of air.
Asius Seem to be on to a Winner
For me the real winner here is Asius Technologies. That is not say I am unimpressed by 64 but they are certainly fortunate to have a deal with Ambrose to get the licensing of ADEL (I know 64 have supported Asius and it is a two way thing without doubt) early because if I am honest, there needs to be some fresh innovation in a staling industry. Adjustable bass and more drivers just is not that impressive any more. What Asius and ADEL are offering is much more than that, hearing protection, modules that do interesting and unreal things too a CIEM in terms of the scale and a bright looking future with the balloon tech.
As for 64 themselves it is clear they know a thing or two about making a CIEM. The overall package was nice and the earphones while lacking design options are pretty well made, even if they don’t stack up to the more creative brands. Like everyone else they seem to be pushing on with the driver wars, using a number of drivers to push sales than really working on sound design, which I felt apparent in the corner cutting to achieve the bassier/bass lighter earphone but you can make your own mind up about that! One of them models may have taken time to design but the other seems like a place filler of the line, adding bass if the A10 came first or removing it if the other way round. While the A12 does what it says on the tin I also don’t feel like the A10 is a truly reference design, better than Rhines attempt of neutral with the Stage 7 but not up to the leagues of Hidition or Ultimate Ears reference models.
When it comes to the price 64 are no longer the more budget friendly brand they once had a reputation as. That’s not to say they don’t do cheaper models. They still have their OG V series that will bag you there 8 driver for 900 bucks and you can enter the ADEL tech for just $399 with their 2 driver universal. However looking at the models I have the price is now slouch, at the UK price of £1580 (A10) and £1750 (A12) with taxes obviously handled, no longer can I pretend there is a sense of value here. You get what you pay for but it isn’t cheap, that’s for sure. Price regardless I want to recommend these. I think you should look out for your hearing and ADEL is going to do just that. The A12 is a lovely listen but not reference tool and while the A10 gets closer to that, I wish it was more its own thing than a slightly more balanced A12. That being said I’m only 2 into the 8 model line up and I am sure one of them will suit you if neither of these appeal to you in terms of sound description. The health factor is here is the most important thing by far, these are solid CIEMs in sound but not my best, but if they mean I will enjoy music for the rest of my life, then I choose you. Also while the MAM module (£160) may seem to be priced excessively for what it is, it really is an interesting little piece of tech and potentially can give you a lot of mileage, I would grab it before buying a fancy cable for your ADEL CIEMs.
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