My (sort of) quick V3 review:
So I've had the V3's from 1964Ears for a couple weeks and I've taken them through their paces in their most likely applications - traveling and working outside at the house. The left one was until very recently back in Oregon being adjusted a bit. The refit is definitely an improvement although it was only losing seal occasionally straight from 1964 the first time around. Those guys make a very, very solid little IEM. It's a bit boring compared to what I've seen from some folks but I really love how my blue-on-gray turned out.
After some time with the V3's, first and foremost, I can definitely vouch for the idea that custom IEMs are second to none in terms of fit and comfort. Even with the issues I mentioned above, they are head and shoulders above any of the universal IEMs I've tried. They do make your ears feel a bit "full" but once you get them in and get used to them, they honestly sort of disappear. And while being comfortable, I think they isolate much better than the universals, too. I wasn't sure what to make of that part because I had seen people say that their custom IEMs let in sound. I can tell you that with the V3's in, I can't hear much of anything in terms of ambient noise.
I was sort of worried about what I might hear once I got them in and playing. It was a multitude of things but primarily, my concerns were that I would end up hearing every little bit of electronic noise in whatever they were connected to and that they wouldn't sound that much better than the universal IEMs I've tried so far. I'm happy to report that both aspects came out far above my expectations.
Noise-wise, they do let you hear a lot. My phone is pretty quiet and I'd say it's the quietest thing I've plugged them into thus far. I have a Maverick A1 headphone amp that is much noisier but it's sort of on par with the very tame fuzz I get from my home speaker rig...the only difference being that the drivers are that much closer to my ears so the fuzz is ever-present. That said, the noise isn't unbearable and it's unnoticeable when music is playing. I also have a Woo WA6-SE and that is probably about halfway between the Maverick and my phone in terms of noise which isn't too bad considering that it's by far the most powerful of the 3. So yes, you'll hear noise with custom IEMs but if portability is your intended use, it shouldn't be an issue out of most players. And if you plug them into a desktop rig, the noise isn't enough to make you run away screaming (at least it isn't for me).
Electronic noise aside, the real test was to see how they did at creating that good noise we call tuneage. :)
Bass - Wow. Just...wow. I've always heard that IEMs either tend to really fall off in the bass or they're too emphatic in the bass...artificially so. I can handle the emphasis but have a bass-light pair was my worst nightmare. And I can say that that fear went by the wayside within about the first 10 seconds of listening to the V3's.
I had told the 1964 guys that I wanted something that sounds like the LCD-2 in terms of frequency balance and in the bass category, they nailed it. There is a touch of bass emphasis in the V3's sound signature but they go DEEP and they stay TIGHT no matter what. I thought the Shure universals (SE215's) I had were good for bass-heavy music but the V3's blow them out of the water in every sense of the phrase. If you like to FEEL bass from an IEM (which I didn't think was possible), they even do that. If you want to follow a bassline throughout a given song, the V3's make it easy. And the upper bass blends very well with the mids which makes them sound very, very flat in that region (that's the good flat).
Even stuff like the Tron Soundtrack is a treat with the V3's just because you want to see how they're going to tear up all that thick, punchy bass. And I've not been able to throw anything at these things yet that they've stumbled on. Buddy Guy's "Baby Please Don't Leave Me"...check. Chevelle's "Comfortable Liar"...check. Infected Mushroom's "Saeed"...check. Simply put, the V3's are bass monsters. Because I consider myself a little bit of a basshead, they might be a little pushed in the bass for some folks...but if you like ultra-competent bass almost to the level of the LCD-2's (which are just a smidge more natural), they will not disappoint.
Mids - Obviously, this is where everybody gets nervous. Any idiot can make a driver that slams out the bass or gets surgical with the treble. Straight out of the box, I wasn't overly impressed with the V3's mids...certainly not on par with what I thought of the bass. But the more I listened to them, the more I noticed that it was probably just a consequence of the mids not being overtly warm like I'm used to. I went back and listened to the Etymotic universals that my wife is using now and I think the mids are closer to the very neutral, slightly dry mids in those vs. the very lush mids in the Shures.
Everything is very even in the midrange except for what I perceive as a slight dip around 1-2khz that makes them sound a little on the boring side. I have the EQ on my phone set to boost that section by about 1-2dB and that tiny change makes the mids at least 30% better in my opinion. The mids aren't anywhere near as sweet or present as the LCD-2's and they're not forward like in the DT880's. I really think the best way to describe them is something along the lines of "neutral" and/or "balanced" and then they err on the side of shy from there, particularly in the upper mids.
If I'm being honest, there aren't any recordings where I absolutely jump out of my skin because of the way the vocals, guitars, and other mid-centric stuff sounds. But at the same time, the mids are never lacking in any degree. Eva Cassidy still sounds like an angel as does Alison Krauss. Pianos, violins, and acoustic guitars all have very palpable tones but it's not like someone is giving your eardrum a sexy massage like it feels with the LCD-2's on. The V3's are just a solid mid performer and that's about all I can hope for. Not every set of cans can have a glaring mid character and these are in that group that doesn't.
Treble - A set of CIEMs that have blazing treble won't get used in my ears and at the same time, a set that sounds sludgy isn't exactly on my cool list, either. The 2 sets of universals I've had thus far - Etymotics and Shures - have diametrically opposed treble sort of along those lines. I have to EQ the treble on the Etys WAY down and the Shures have to be brought up a fair amount. So I was hoping for customs that would either split that down the middle or err very slightly in the direction of the Shures.
Thankfully, the middle is what I got. At first, I thought that they were a little bit TOO much like the Shures for a $500 IEM but the more I listened, the more I kept noticing that there were a LOT of little details that I was hearing pretty clearly. I attributed part of that to the improved seal of the V3's but after several hours of listening, I realized that couldn't be the whole story. And the more I listen to the V3's, the more I realize their treble is a bit of an oxymoron. There is plenty of detail but the sparkle that a lot of people associate with "good" treble isn't there. Personally, I think the V3's treble occupies about the perfect area for me. And no EQ is necessary so I guess that's pretty telling, too.
If you want to be able to hear things like the lead singer clearing his throat or the bass player's fingers on frets, the V3's will give you that. But if you want an absolutely clean cymbal attack and shimmer or if you like sharp sibilants, they will probably fall short. Again, I'm reminded of that "dark" character everybody says the LCD-2's have. I think the LCD-2's might sound just a bit more detailed even than the V3's but the IEM's are far from sludgy or slow. Again, I think I would have preferred a tiny bit more of the DT880-type character in the treble but I'm not disappointed in what the V3's have at all. I "wish" for that but I do so cautiously because a good part of my brain thinks if they did sound more like the 880's, they'd be too bright.
Soundstage - Nothing incredibly surprising here. They image better than both the Etys and Shures but because they're still IEMs, the headstage is still relatively small. They do have great separation and sense of space, however. Nothing is muddled in the soundstage...it's just little.
Dynamics - They're above average dynamically speaking. Again, they're not going to touch the LCD-2's with my Woo but they do incredibly well. I think the V3's are 119dB sensitive and 16 ohms so they can play PLENTY loud even on my phone (I'm at about 50% volume comfortably). They go up and down in sound level pretty easily and I have a strong suspicion that they might be dynamically limited just by what they're plugged into. When I have them plugged into the A1, for example, they seemed to perk up a good bit dynamically speaking.
Overall - If I'm spending $500 on CIEMs, I don't think I could have done better. For my particular sound preferences, it's almost like the V3's were made for me. And comfort-wise, it's pretty obvious that they were. The V3's are an incredible bass performer with more sedate but also very competent mids and treble. They leave the most elusive aspects of high-end head/earphones on the table - the last bit of mid resolution, mid sweetness, micro detail retrieval, giant soundstage - but that's about it.