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ACS have completely redesigned their T1 triple driver Custom In Ear Monitor for 2010, below is our review of this exciting new earphone.

At the top end is a combined unit providing specific drivers for the highs and mids engineered into a single unit with an ultra-compact crossover optimising the response for each, this is then combined with a clear and powerful bass driver to deliver rich and full-bodied bottom end. All driver builds are hand-made and individually tested by the technicians in Banbury to ensure that each configuration is a perfect fit.

 

Using carefully selected drivers from Knowles Electronics the T1 utilises a combined unit with independent high and mid-range speakers to give the optimum definition, clarity and punch without being overbearing. Next to this, the T1 engages the biggest bass driver in the range providing rich, smooth and deep bass that perfectly compliments its partner drivers. The finishing touches to the T1’s sound are applied by two acoustic filters giving a smooth and balanced signature.

 

Fit and flexibility

The shape of your ear canal changes with the movement of your jaw and having a flexible earpiece not only gives you the obvious benefits of greater comfort but also helps to maintain a more consistent seal, particularly during vocal performances. Not only that, but using a softer compound means that your monitors warm to body temperature more quickly giving you complete comfort, flexibility and isolation in just a few minutes.

 

Tailored from top to bottom

Making sure that the right cable is used to deliver your sound is as important as every other aspect in the design of in ear monitors so ACS make sure they are just as well thought out. Starting with the best conductive core they then add kevlar threads for strength and flexibility, each cable is sheathed with a special finish that reduces the transmission of friction noise to the earpieces so there’s as little interference as possible. The cable is then clamped at the Y divide with a custom pressed lengthened binder to give it extra strength where you need it most. Finally, each cable is finished with a custom moulded right-angled plug offering high levels of resilience as well as quality with a gold-plated 3.5mm connector and iPhone compatible shoulder design.

 

All in the detail

It’s the finishing touches that make every pair of hand-made monitors completely unique from a choice of cable colours to a selection of bespoke silicone finishes. Every monitor can be laser etched with lettering or logo of your choice and is supplied in a customised rugged case to ensure your monitors are protected wherever you might travel.

 

Your ears on file...

ACS has introduced of a new state of the art scanning technology that means all customers that order custom made hearing protection and in-ear monitoring products from ACS will have their ear shape on file at ACS for up to 4 years. The device will scan the impressions and save as a file on the database so customers can order new products or replacements instantly without the need to have new impressions taken. What's more, this service will not cost customers anything extra on top of the standard product charge!

The scanning service began on May 1st 2010 so will only apply to customers that ordered thereafter.

 

ACS T1 Custom IEM Review

 

What do you get for your money?

 

Options - Silicone and cable colour
Audiologist appointment for impressions
Ear impressions kept on file
Personalised options - Engraved name / logo
Excellent hardcase

 

Comfort - Soft silicone helps make the T1 incredibly comfortable, though not immediately. In the first few minutes after insertion they feel weird and intrusive, however this sensation quickly evaporates and within the half hour they feel like a part of your body. Eventually when you remove them it is as if you have lost a finger.

 

Sound

The ACS T1 reproduces each section of the audio spectrum with subtlety and confident definition. The isolation provided by the medical grade silicon is second to none so nothing gets between you and the music. I gave the T1's a good 50 hours burn in time which made a significant difference from new.

 

Bass - There is weight and texture in their reproduction of the bottom end, providing the sensation that the bass notes really move with emotion, that kick drums punch the chest, and that kettle drums and low toms feel full but don't linger. Bass is felt as tough and visceral in nature, articulate and involving. It is continually enjoyable that they describe so much detail in the lower register - whilst being beefy and solid there is no flab to trim here.

 

Midrange - A sweet spot here, forward and detailed in their presentation of this part of frequency spectrum, the midrange is a wide powerful backdrop against which the treble is layered carefully over the top. Vocals are sweet, dry and emotional, guitars and strings impressive and never woody, pianos feel real, and horns are particularly vivid without becoming oppressive. I initially worried this power would become fatiguing, but actually the balance is really good and listening compulsive so I really don't want to remove them from my ears. Make no mistake - the T1's faithfully reproduce every detail and go about it very boldly.

 

Treble - Immediately noticeable were the slightly rolled-off highs. The T1's reproduce treble frequencies faithfully and they do not feel recessed - but some tracks which are normally painfully bright were really tamed. I'm not sure how this is achieved without total relegation of the treble frequencies to the background but there is something very clever at work here. Cymbals and high-hats still cut through and articulate well without becoming harsh and overbearing. To my ears this felt odd at first, I like music bright but I could not detect a loss in detail. As I listened further this initial subjective impression faded as I just really started enjoying the music.

 

The new ACS T1 is an impressive piece of sonic engineering. With it's chunky but measured bass, a revealing and solid midrange coupled with a detailed and delicate top end you get the impression the technicians listened to a lot of IEM's and a lot of peoples criticisms of them. Nothing here feels overcooked and there is no sense that you are missing anything either, the longer I listen the more impressed I become. There is excitement and finesse here in measures that scream musicality.

 

Stereo imaging - The other point worth mentioning is that they image about as well as I've ever heard from any IEM. The music pans through the corridor of Left to Right without stutter, there is a natural ease which stops you from questioning the position of a sound, thereby preventing distraction. The T1's provide each instrument with it's own space without completely isolating elements and preventing detailed harmonic interaction. Everything sounds highly intimate and emotional without resorting to the sort of fireworks which detract from the music itself.

 

Professional application - The first job that the T1's were invited on was the recording of a live performance music video for a seven piece soul band. I knew it would be a noisy affair as the video part would mean a lot of extra people in the room. There was to be no audience which I initially was pleased with - later I realised the T1's isolation was so good it wouldn't have mattered how many screaming folks filled the venue. I took a pair of HD 25's and some Beyer DT100's but never touched either, I'm not sure I'll even pack them in the future. I've since rehearsed drums with them and will not be playing using anything else.

 

Who uses ACS Customs? - Well quite a lot of musicians as you might expect, Pendulum, Pink Floyd, U2, Lily Allen, The Prodigy, Paulo Nutini, Radiohead, Stephen Fry, Ash, Basement Jaxx, Muse, Ladyhawke, The Futureheads, Super Furry Animals, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and lots of other people - I'm sure you get the idea.

 

Overall - So whether you are purchasing T1's as a pro audio monitoring tool or an extremely high end headphone, can you be confident that this is £650 well spent? I think this type of purchase isn't about a product being perfect (for this we would surely all need our own laboratory), it is more about the elimination of imperfection. What ACS have done is to take a wish list common to both the audiophile and the musician of what is necessary, of what is desirable and what is inexcusable to include in an contemporary IEM and worked very hard to balance these elements with clinical precision. Whilst using the T1's a colleague recently asked me "What do you think of your new monitors?", over mouthing the words as he knew I couldn't really hear him. "Yeah! They're perfect" I shouted back without thinking.

 

More Information

 

To read more about the ACS T1 Custom IEM or the rest of the ACS custom range please visit the HiFi Headphones web store.