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[REVIEW] The ACS T1 - a tear jerker (but in a good way)

post #1 of 235
Thread Starter 
Some links and details.

http://www.acscustom.com/uk/index.ph...d=30&Itemid=45







Quote:
The T1 from ACS represents the pinnacle of in-ear monitoring. Its three balanced armature drivers work in perfect symphony to create an incredible breadth of sound with amazing definition.

A single treble driver provides the perfect highs to pick out the details in any composition while a combined mid-range and bass driver unit gives the benefits of separation with a single physical output channel.The mid-range driver gives perfect clarity where it's most needed, ensuring that this most active range can be delivered with the body and deifinition it deserves whilst keeping it clean and free from bleed. The bass driver creates smooth and balanced tones in perfect harmony with its companion drivers completing a full-bodied and unbiased reproduction that conveys incredible body and detail.
Some reviews.
ACS T1

ACS T-1


My Experience
OK, so before we start, I ought to lay my cards on the table. I'm relatively new to both the site and to this audiophiliac lark. I originally came to the site on a mission from God, and music wasn't my priority really. I wanted to block out the world, because I spend an average of around 25 hours a week on assorted planes, trains and automobiles, and I'd become sick of:

- hearing about last night's eviction on <insert name of reality TV show>
- hearing the announcer tell me about why we've been delayed another hour
- having to deafen myself on a daily basis to hear the music I loved (I used to wrap my lugs around the ear buds to try and hear my favourite tracks).

I dabbled with the Bose QC3 for a while but got fed up with the bulk and with the fact the batteries ran out of charge far too quickly, and with the slight ambient hiss. In the process, portability and clarity were added as new key criteria.

Then I stumbled on an article about some decent quality earphones (the ER6-i as it happens) with some custom moulds on the top, and I thought to myself "I need this.". It introduced the idea of noise attenuation as an alternative to noise cancellation, and also sewed the seeds of worry in terms of hearing protection.

A google search for information on the ER6i washed me up on these shores... and my wallet has been 'not waving but drowning' ever since.




Without going into too much detail, my upgrade path from that day to the present has gone a little something like this: ER4P with standard foams > ER4P with ACS silicon custom tips > Klipsch X10 with standard gels > Klipsch X10 with ACS silicon custom tips > Super Freq > Mod to Super Freq to add detatchable cable...

-------------------------

So - I knew I wanted to upgrade, and I knew I wanted to experience something truly top bracket on all fronts. I live in the UK (Scotland) and work in London through the week, so it's hard finding time to get to an audiologist, and it's even harder when I have to deal with vendors or manufacturers based outside this country. Naturally I found myself attracted to ACS, as they're an English outfit, and they're well represented on these shores. The key thing to note about these guys is that their custom monitors are crafted from soft silicone, rather than the hard silicone formerly used in the Sensaphonics monitors (those guys were originally trained by ACS), or the light-cured acrylic used by most other manufacturers.

A little research followed... and, well, it didn't give me much to work with if I'm honest. Head-Fi did, of course, have MilkPowder's phenomenal review of the ACS T2 (see below), and Theory87 helped a great deal when I asked for more info on the T1 (with links to threads on Jaben and so forth - again, see below), but for the most part these things were a bit of a mystery. Yes, they were acknowledged as being high quality. But beyond that, things were a little vague.

So I thought 'stuff it - I'm going to get in touch with the company', and on a whim I rattled off an email to ACS using an email address I found on MilkPowder's thread. This was supposedly the email address of the company's founder - a guy called Andy Sciach.

Here's the email.

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Hi Andy

Sorry for the unsolicited email - I got your email address from Head-Fi, and thought I should email directly as I'm just considering ordering the T1s... but I have one nagging concern.

Having read reviews, there are mixed opinions on the bass they provide and I can't quite imagine what to expect. I do like my bass heavy music from time to time and listen to a fair bit of hip hop in amongst the whole spectrum of music.

As you're the man who truly knows, what does the T1s lower end feel like?

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To my surprise, quite soon after I received a reply from Andy suggesting it was better to have a chat in person or over the phone. Next thing you know we're chatting on the phone, and talking about what I need from the earphones, what my musical preferences are, and so forth. Andy was instantly likeable and, as often seems to be the case in this industry, seemed a real evangelist for the benefits these product provide (beyond the desire to make money I mean). To quote him directly: "It's like legalised drug dealing!".

To sum up his 'findings', he actually recommended the ACS T2 as a safe bet, because my musical taste, while often heavy rock and hip hop, also includes most other genres from time to time. Amongst other things, I still listen to a lot of Pink Floyd (one of the bands ACS has worked with over the years) and it was interesting to hear that Roger Waters prefers the T2 for on-stage use. The detail at the low end of the spectrum is a big part of their make-up, and I found that reassuring (in terms of my expectations of the T2). The T1, it seemed, was crafted for on-stage use, with an additional mid-focussed driver to the 2 included in the T2.

This left me leaning towards his recommendation for a while, but after a week of cogitation, I wrote again to ask for some clarification on a few points. Here's a snippet from his reply.

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I quite understand your wavering! What I would say is that you shouldn't think of the T1 as being the top end model - it's just more expensive as it has more components. The sound signature is very different to the T2 and delivers more low and mids. This is great if all you want to listen to is bass biased music, but when you have a broader taste, it's nice to get rid of that 'fog' and hear all the detail in balance.

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So that was interesting. In terms of quality, I found myself with the counter-intuitive impression that the number of drivers wasn't really the key factor in sound quality. It's all about balance and taste. A couple more emails to-ed and fro-ed, with Andy sending me a couple of published reviews on the two products... and being someone who relies on 'gut feelings' to confirm my decisions, I found myself drawn to the T1. The bass makes music fun for me, and provides the warmth I crave. So the T1 it was, and he set me up with an appointment at one of their audiologists in London.

A few key points to interject at this stage.

- ACS asked the audiologist for closed mouth impressions (they're soft silicone, and I'm not a stage performer).

- Clearly the silicone has some affect on the sound, and I'd be interested in your views on that front - whether this 'warms up' or 'veils' the sound in any way. More of that later.

The audiologist insisted on taking two sets of impressions, was reassuringly perfectionist about the whole thing, and took my full spec for the monitors on board... but the major treat of the day was the fact she let me listen to her T2s.

She had dainty little ear canals that were freakishly perfect in geometric terms, so she'd found she could let others listen to them and give them a decent idea of how the product sounds. I fired up some Floyd and later some Smashing Pumpkins on the iPhone, and, well, even without the custom seal it was clear that these were a few notches ahead of my SuperFREQs. The clarity, the texture, the punch, and the range were all obvious when sat in the silence of the room. She laughed as she saw the expression on my face, which needless to say was like a 3 year old kid with a lollypop. I found myself wondering if I'd made the right decision, but the deed was done as I walked out of the office. I was committed to the T1 based on, well, not a lot - just a hunch.

A week or so later I got a call from the audiologist - they were ready! I dropped everything at work and went to pick them up immediately. Stuff the boss! Stuff the horrendous to-do list! I've been obsessing about this for years...

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DISCLAIMER
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Now, here's a thing. To me, my to-do list is the worst, most ridonkulous to-do list in the world. But I bet your to-do list is, for you, just as ridonkulous. We can't really tell whose is worse without more information, can we? Earphones and monitors are just the same. Look at the 'sound glossary' thread. Even when we try to standardise, people can't agree 100% on what the terms mean, or what things sound like.

It becoems easier with a higher volume of reviews and that's what makes sites like these great, but for some more marginal products, or where the users are less inclined to write reviews, you're out on a limb to some extent when you take the plunge.

So that's the disclaimer. All I'm going to do is try to report as honestly as I can what they sound and feel like, while also putting across my entirely subjective emotional/kinaesthetic response throughout. It's a subjective viewpoint, and it might not be objectively reliable. It's just the way I feel about the product.

-----------

Roughly two weeks later, the audiologist called to say the monitors were ready to pick up. I literally dropped everything at work and jumped on the Underground to pick them up. I'd prepared a playlist to listen to on the way back, and having rich mids in mind with vocals heavy on emotion, I popped on "Sasha's Voyage of Ima" from BT's Ima (trance and dance fans will no doubt know it).

I popped them in and the feeling was the exact same as it was for my test of the T2, albeit the seal was 100% perfect first go. I saw the audiologist speaking, but all I could hear was a tiny muffling sound outside. Her perfectionism had paid off in style.

So as I left her little office, I had a real skip in my step, and I was completely immersed in the music as I coasted along the street, into the tube station, on to the platform, on to the train, along the 20 minute journey... all the time in a total trance, completely immersed in the music.

It was clear that the mids were enhanced to some extent, and I'm sorry I lack the skills to express that more technically. I'd listened to the same piece on the Super Freq many times, and the mid range in particular was in a different league, even given that this was electronic music. The emotion conveyed by the vocal was moving, and I'm not ashamed to say I reached the steps to my office on the brink of tears and with a quivering lip. I'd been hoping for a product like this for a very long time, and here I was with the precise thing I wanted.

I turned the volume down on my iPhone, and the traffic outside was silent. I was using them without comfort cream at this stage.

As with all customs, it's clear that everything depends on the quality of the mould. You're not going to get the proper sound signature and quality unless the fit is tight, and the outside noise is removed from the equation, so I was thankful for the lady's perfectionism. On top of that, the silicon was super comfortable. The ACS monitors are unconventional in that the top end of the silicon mould has a depressed area, a groove, that with touch only allows you to identify which side is which (in the dark, in your bag, wherever).

Some pics (sorry about the quality).















Now, you'll notice the Neutrik connector. I'd requested that specifically... well, a note on that. It's a lethal weapon. It's very robust, but it's also very heavy, and if you inadvertently swing it in the vicinity of an iPhone, the chances are you'll take out your screen. Thankfully I got away with a little chip in the jack, which was nothing fatal, but regardless, I've since had it replaced, and it's far nicer with a standard connector in place. It's also easier to drive, and I have the volume down a notch strangely enough.

So, more detail on the sound.

In the first week, I had good moments and not so good moments. I listened to "Come Away With Me" by Norah Jones and it was incredible. Again, the emotion and the textural detail coming through in each track was something I'd never experienced before, and I felt like I was stood next to Norah at the mic, with her band around me, and I could pick out each and every nuance of their performance in the minutest detail. I love that. I grew up around live performers (albeit Scottish Country Dance music was mostly on the agenda), and it rekindled that feeling again for me. I felt like a little kid again, picking out the vamping notes on the bass.

The song "Seven Years" in particular, again, made me go a big rubbery one. That's the real strength of the T1s in my view. It's a rich, creamy sound that really places you in the middle of the performance, and for that sort of recording, it's at its finest.

That's not to say it doesn't handle other musical genres equally well, but ther balance doesn't always feel 100% right. I listened to Leftfield's "Rhythm and Stealth" and the track "Busted" didn't quite fit somehow... but then I listened to Leftfield's "Leftism", and the opposite was true. I guess it's partly down to the recording in each case.

That's rarely happened since, and I've been conscious that the sound has become clearer over time since I first used them, such that when I returned them to get the connector changed, I pined for them. Quite honestly, somewhere inside I was whining away for the week we were apart.

Right now I'm still testing them to be honest. I can sit for a full day with them on (as I often have to do if I have a long train journey), and they're 100% comfortable at all times. They're proving robust, too. I've used them non-stop and heavily too, and there are no real blemishes on show.

If you've any questions, please feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer. I even bought "Critical Listening Skills for Audio Professionals" to try and do the review justice, but work has deprived me of the time to explore that.

There's no real point in going into massive detail beyond that. Best to leave it to those who want to ask questions. To finish I'll sum up my listening today.

1. Kid A by Radiohead.

The T1s pick out details I couldn't hear with other monitors I'd used before, and levels and layers of depth. Again, it's maybe symptomatic of my taste, but the vocals are choc full of emotion, and the balance conveys that perfectly.

2. Rated R by Queens of the Stone Age.

Again, plenty of raw emotion, but also slamming rock bass and drums, energetic riffs, and at times venturing into thrash-esque territory. No complaints on any of those fronts whatsoever. Again, it's the emotion that you're left with beyond all else.

3. Code 4109 by DJ Krush.

A real headmusic thumper with low-tempo and bass-heavy hip hop throughout. Again it sounds better on the T1 than it has with anything else I've ever listened to it on. It brings out details in the mixer's work that you don't get elsewhere (location of the noises, little flourishes on the scratching, that kind of detail).

4. The Seldom Seen Kid Live at Abbey Road by Elbow.

Again, emotion and detail and live flourish. Same as for Norah Jones. It's very moving stuff throughout.

Sorry for the lack of technical savvy in the review, but that reflects my own progress with my listening really. I'm working on it.

Best of luck all. I wholeheartedly recommend ACS and its customer care, and I look forward to hearing about their new products in future.

I hope this is of some help to someone out there!
post #2 of 235
oh man you've just presented **** but its blurred =(
Such a teaser lol.
post #3 of 235
Nice detailed write up!

Pics are kind of bad though.
post #4 of 235
nice one roy..yea thanks..just make me wanna spend £649 why don't ya? naa lol I'm very happy with the 13's but you give a nice review on the T1's
so when are you getting your 13's then? thats the next step up
post #5 of 235
Thread Starter 
Just the iPhone camera guys, what can you do?

I'm waiting for the 13s Timmy - I'm happy with these and I'd be better waiting and picking some up 2nd hand I guess. I don't need them.

Anyway this isn't about the JH13s thanks. Every 2nd other thread is.
post #6 of 235
Glad you are enjoying the T1. Nice review. Quite like what I told you. Somehow, I just find the words emotion, creamy and rich can't really convey the the real strength of T1 strongly enough :P There is really some magic with T1. Same can be said for Sensaphonic 2XS.
post #7 of 235
Thread Starter 
Yeah mate - I feel frustrated at not being able to express it better really. It's full involvement with the music, but in terms of the electronics and the decibels and frequencies involved, I'm ashamed at my lack of prowess.
post #8 of 235
Thread Starter 
That maybe hints at my not needing to upgrade. It might be wasted on me to opt for a more expensive IEM like a JH13 or a UE18 or whatever comes out next. This really suits my taste to a tee, and the noise attenuation is nothing short of perfect. That's what I wanted more than anything else - comfort and complete serenity during my commute... my lengthy lengthy commute.
post #9 of 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by royhendo View Post
That maybe hints at my not needing to upgrade. It might be wasted on me to opt for a more expensive IEM like a JH13 or a UE18 or whatever comes out next. This really suits my taste to a tee, and the noise attenuation is nothing short of perfect. That's what I wanted more than anything else - comfort and complete serenity during my commute... my lengthy lengthy commute.
true. after getting T1, my upgrading journey actually stop. Other IEM that i have is purely to suit different music gene. I'm wondering if the cable is 4 core. may terminate to balance jack.

IMO, there is no iem except for Sensaphonic able to reproduce similar sound signature. It got something to do with the silicon
post #10 of 235
pretty interested to get them too. hopefully a new 6 driver arise to the battlefield soon!!
post #11 of 235
I have the old but good (sensaphonics 2X-s -review forthcoming) and even they are good - very good. But the ACS may take it up a notch. What I appreciate about the 2X-s though, is that it has next to no effect on the output of an iPod touch 2G whereas most balanced armatures simply don't sound themselves without an external amp.

If ACS have followed along the same lines, then I am convinced they are good.
post #12 of 235
Nice !! I was just looking for ACS T1 reviews ;D

Btw, mind telling me what cables and what colours did you choose ?

Seems that you have tried the T2 too, though without a perfect seal, mind doing a slight comparison between the 2 ?

Btw, you could have opted for a golden right angle neutrik plug instead of a silver one though =X

But yeah, thats one of the reason why I dislike cables with that kind of plugs.. too heavy, but yesh, its my preference haha.

I am quite inclined for the T1 too, but as what Andy adviced to the others, he also advise me to take the T2 with regards to my genre preference(classical, jazz, some rock, chinese/english pop)

Quote:
Originally Posted by charlie0904 View Post
pretty interested to get them too. hopefully a new 6 driver arise to the battlefield soon!!
Want to meet up together with Aron @ SE to audition his T1,T2 and T3 ?
But heard that he currently doing reservists, not sure when he will be back.
post #13 of 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by Junliang View Post
Nice !! I was just looking for ACS T1 reviews ;D

Btw, mind telling me what cables and what colours did you choose ?

Seems that you have tried the T2 too, though without a perfect seal, mind doing a slight comparison between the 2 ?

Btw, you could have opted for a golden right angle neutrik plug instead of a silver one though =X

But yeah, thats one of the reason why I dislike cables with that kind of plugs.. too heavy, but yesh, its my preference haha.

I am quite inclined for the T1 too, but as what Andy adviced to the others, he also advise me to take the T2 with regards to my genre preference(classical, jazz, some rock, chinese/english pop)


Want to meet up together with Aron @ SE to audition his T1,T2 and T3 ?
But heard that he currently doing reservists, not sure when he will be back.
Have you visit those link he posted above? if not, please do. There is normal jack.

And pls call SE PS branch before you head down as to my knowledge, all ACS iem are over at the CW branch
post #14 of 235
Thread Starter 
Junliang - it might be worth waiting a month or two. There are new Knowles drivers out now, and having been pestering the company, it seems they are testing them out. There may be improved monitors available soon. Well, I say 'may'...

On the T1 versus the T2, it seems to be an issue of mid neutrality really. The clarity was there (I listened to rock music and the guitars rasped into your ears on the songs in the way I'd never experienced before - very visceral).

The T2's portrayal of the vocals and detail around the mids really bring that element into your own space - you feel like the singer's there with you, or the accordion player in the Amelie soundtrack is sat next to you, with every button click and whump of the mechanism being exposed to your ears. That's really nice.
post #15 of 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by Junliang View Post
Want to meet up together with Aron @ SE to audition his T1,T2 and T3 ?
But heard that he currently doing reservists, not sure when he will be back.

T1 is available to audition? you are interested in ACS?
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