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Perfect Seal AR6

Rating:
4.5/5,
  1. MikePortnoy
    Perfect Seal AR6 Silicone Custom In Ear Monitor Review
    Written by MikePortnoy
    Published Mar 21, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Imaging, Alive Sound, Silicone and acrylic shell options
    Cons - Highs could be faster, Not the most comfortable fit.
    Introduction:
     
    Perfect Seal is an American company, located in Wichita/Kansas. His founder Mike has been in this industry for a while and released some custom in ear monitors such as PS Series and Sportbuds. In addition, Perfect Seal launched the first hybrid monitor in silicone that is called Fusion 11. They also produce customized molds for hearing and protection plugs.
     
    Mike is very responsive and helpful guy. I usually contact him via PM, on Head-fi. I think that he has very nice ideas as a designer. My first pair was in acrylic and he made a beautiful wooden faceplate.
     
    ar1.jpg
     
    Built Quality and Internals:
     
    As I mentioned above, my first pair was acrylic, but had a seal break in the right side. In this regard, I sent it back and decided on silicone shell to be able to hear the difference between two units.
     
    AR6 consists of six balanced armature drivers: 1 low, 2 low/mid, 2 mid and lastly 1 tweeter. In addition, it has four acoustic bores and 5-way passive crossover system as well as 2 pin industry standard sockets. In general, AR6 has a decent craftsmanship. I don’t have a seal break with silicone version, but it is a bit too tight. Still, I have no complaining about the isolation provided.
     
    I think the reviewed AR6 is covered with beautiful color combination. In terms of designing, Mike does great job and we are able to see many fine examples of Perfect Seal monitors. AR6 comes with a hard case and a special card on which customer name is printed. The cable on AR6 is an industry standard unit, similar to Westone or UM cables.
     
    Sound:
     
    Perfect Seal AR6 has an alive atmosphere with a hint of warmth. Instrument placement and imaging is very well determined. As we all know, AR6 has two versions and I had a chance to try both. This review is about AR6 silicone version and I will try to describe the difference between two in following parts from my recent memory. In this review, Lotoo Paw Gold was utilized as the source.
     
    ar2.jpg
     
    Low Frequency:
     
    Sub-bass of AR6 is not superbly powerful, but neither weak. It carries good amount of resolution with enough rumble. It performs well in terms of responsiveness in fast tracks. Hitting to depth ability is nice, but decay may be a little too fast which results in a very small quantity of roll-off.
     
    Mid-bass has fine-tuning with a nice tonality and control. Indeed, AR6’s mid-bass never overwhelms the background and general atmosphere. There is a balanced quantity of warmth provided by mid-bass notes, neither too warm nor cold.
     
    On the other hand, silicone version sounds different than acrylic. Acrylic performs with less warm low frequency tone and some may find acrylic’s notes less bodied. This tuning results in change in average note thickness.
     
    Mid Frequency:
     
    AR6’s midrange is located neither too distant nor too close to listener. It isn’t fatiguing and there is no aggressiveness. However, upper midrange sounds a bit forward compared to the rest of the midrange with a slight coloration/brightness. Average note thickness is nice, neither too thick nor thin; but upper midrange may sound thinner by a small margin. In addition, AR6 performs with a good transparency and resolution.
     
    In comparison, AR6 in acrylic sounds brighter and leaner than silicone version. AR6 in silicone has less stress in releasing notes and it is smoother in upper midrange. On the other hand, AR6 in acrylic seems to have a better transparency performance. AR6 in acrylic tends to sibilance more.
     
    High Frequency:
     
    The treble notes of AR6 don’t sound so forward, but they are prominent in accordance with slight coloration. It isn’t very forgiving against bad recordings, but doesn’t have a metallic tone. Resolution and transparency is pretty nice, but treble may become a bit sticky in super fast metal tracks dominated by high frequency. The treble presentation of both versions is similar, but AR6 in silicone recreates notes in a smoother way pursuant to mid-bass’ tone and quantity.
     
    Soundstage and Separation:
     
    AR6 in silicone provides good stage dimensions. There is no congestion in the stage structure and the depth of the stage offers a good layering ability. The background is located distant enough and has a good amount of blackness. The most impressive part of AR6 is its imaging. The instruments are portioned in effective sizes and 3D ability is strong. In sum, there is a ‘’living’’ music and atmosphere.
     
    The separation is also good, but it may become stressful in fast metal tracks. AR6 in acrylic offers a neutral air between instruments in comparison, while silicone spreads warmer one in accordance with mid-bass presentation difference.
     
    Selected Comparisons:
     
    Perfect Seal AR6 vs AAW W500 AHMorph
     
    arvsw500.jpg
     
    Low Frequency:
     
    Sub-bass of W500 has more open tone and provides more resolution with a better texture, while AR6 is faster and slightly more controlled. Both have natural sub-bass hits, but W500 put more air behind punches pursuant to dynamic driver advantage. They both have prominent sub-bass, but W500 has more forward and similarly resolved mid-bass presentation. AR6 sounds more coherent in mid-bass region. On the other hand, W500 tends more to get tightened due to mid-bass location and quantity.
     
    Mid Frequency:
     
    Average note thickness is very similar, but W500 has cleaner notes. However both have a little stress in note releasing. AR6 performs better in terms of coherence, while W500 is a little more resolved. In addition, vocals’ dimensions are slightly clearer on AR6, but both tend to sibilance due to similar tones in upper midrange. Both have similar amount of transparency.
     
    High Frequency:
     
    W500 has bolder and slightly less prominent treble notes, while AR6 has brighter tone. AR6 is more sensitive against bad recordings and W500 is slightly more resolved. Both have a good extension, but W500 has more natural approach.   
     
    Soundstage and Separation:
     
    W500 has a wider stage, while AR6 has deeper one with a better layering. W500 locates the stage closer to listener, while AR6 uses the depth more effective to create a living ambiance. In terms of coherence and imaging, AR6 definitely betters W500. W500 lacks coherence due to mid-bass linkage with the rest of the spectrum. Both have good background blackness, but W500 provides a bit better separation.
     
     
    AR6 vs SA-43 (with both switches positioned on):
     
    arvssa43.jpg
     
    Low Frequency:
     
    Both have similar quantity of low frequency. AR6 hits a bit deeper with slightly better resolution and texture in sub-bass region, but both have similar control in terms of speed. AR6 has warmer mid-bass with similar location of recreation. In this regard, AR6’s mid-bass seems to be more intimate with the stage and atmosphere.
     
    Mid Frequency:
     
    AR6 sounds a bit more forward in midrange, while SA43 has truer tone, more natural note releasing and better transparency. In terms of creating both thick and thin notes, the performance is close, but SA-43 betters AR6 by a small margin. In upper midrange, SA-43 is smoother and less stressed, while AR6 sounds brighter and more forward in comparison. Overall midrange resolution and detail levels are similar.
     
    High Frequency:
     
    AR6’s treble notes are more prominent and brighter with a better extension performance. However, SA-43 has a truer tone and provides better resolution and speed. In addition, AR6 is more sensitive against bad recordings. Transparency level is similar in treble region, but AR6 seems to be more detailed with an exception of fast metal tracks.  
     
    Soundstage and Separation:
     
    SA-43 has deeper and slightly wider stage. In comparison, SA-43 uses larger headroom with slightly laid back positioning. Both have an impressive imaging and coherence, but SA-43 is a very special custom in ear monitor when it comes to imaging and 3D recreation. So, SA-43 betters AR6 and creates more realistic atmosphere with a better layering. Both have impressive background, but SA-43 has a bit better instrument separation with a faster attack and decay ability overall.  
     
    Final Words:
     
    Perfect Seal AR6 has a very impressive imaging and alive sound. We can have AR6 in both acrylic and silicone body including beautiful design options. By taken my experience on both versions, I can say that AR6 in silicone sounds a bit fuller and smoother than acrylic version; for sure, there is a price difference between two. The MSRP of acrylic version is 950 USD, while silicone is priced at 1150 USD.
     
    For ordering and more info, please check the link:
     
    http://perfect-seal.com/music/
     
     
     
       
      Kerouac, Hawaiibadboy and flinkenick like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. MikePortnoy
      @Metalboy Thank you :) 
       
      @Kerouac Just a simple review, but I appreciate your comment mate :) 
      MikePortnoy, Mar 22, 2016
    3. flinkenick
      Impressive work as always buddy.
      flinkenick, Mar 22, 2016
    4. MikePortnoy
      Thank you bud. :)
      MikePortnoy, Mar 22, 2016
  2. shotgunshane
    PERFECT SEAL AR6: AMBIANCE AND REFERENCE DEFINED
    Written by shotgunshane
    Published Jan 30, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Life Like Spaciousness, Depth and Imaging
    Cons - Wouldn't mind a touch more mid bass and upper treble
    Note: Perfect Seal graciously provided the AR6 in this review.

    Perfect Seal Lab[​IMG]oratories, based in Wichita Kansas, is a relatively new company in the increasingly popular custom in-ear market. The company is run by Mike Martinez, and while Perfect Seal might be new to the Head-Fi community, Mike is certainly not new to the industry. He previously worked for an early industry lab that made monitors for Sensaphonics and Fireside, in which everything was dynamic driver based at that time.

    Before getting into the model being reviewed here, I wanted to share a Q&A I recently had with Mike, so he can shed a light on the Perfect Seal team and how he approaches the tunings that make up the Perfect Seal line-up:

     Who are the team behind Perfect Seal Laboratories? 

    Mike: Currently we are a team of four. Myself, Dave, Brad and Brandi. Though I may use the term lightly, we all are musicians except Brandi. We have a really good thing going, every one is very reliable and that makes all the difference in the world. 

    How do you approach tuning a new design? Do you have target measurements or a specific sound signature in mind when you start designing an in-ear?

    Mike: There are several ways and considerations into the approach of a new design. I like to start with a Diffuse Field curve then tweak things to my liking or toward whatever I feel the intended target may be wanting to hear. 

    Do you use specific songs or kinds of music to gauge the tuning direction when you are designing an in-ear? If so would you mind sharing a couple?

    Mike: I do have specific songs I’ll use in the design and tuning of our units. I really don’t stick with one genre but will try several. A few bands I’ll use are Candlebox, Little Wayne, Charlie Daniels, Casey Donahew, and so on. There are certain artifacts that I’ll look for. I also like to use stuff I wrote and recorded because I obviously know the intended sound intimately. 

    What background do you bring to the industry that gives you a unique or different edge and/or sound?

    Mike: Along with my music background, I bring my knowledge of various materials and modeling techniques. I have production methods that not too many are familiar with or even heard of. Some of which are in place and some just waiting to be incorporated. 

    Do you feel your line-up has a house sound or did you set out to have completely different sound in different models?

    Mike: I hear a lot about “house sounds” but I don’t feel we have a house sound. I look to offer a wide range models that way anyone could fine something they prefer. 

    You offer some of your in-ears in silicone and acrylic. Are there any sound differences between the same model but built in each material? If so, to what would you attribute it?

    Mike: There may be slight variations in sound between the same model being made in different materials. There could be a few reasons to explain this but my take is: 1. The material around the sound tube, insulating it. In a silicone unit, the entire run of the sound tube is in contact with the silicone. In an acrylic mold, the tube is usually in free air with canal portion of the tube encased in acrylic. 2. My second explanation is more of  a theory that involves sound waves hitting the tip of the mold. A soft mold could possibly be dampening sound waves bouncing off of the eardrum while the hard mold may not be dampening them as much, causing piggyback signals or a slight difference in sound perception. 

    How would you describe your perfect sound signature?

    Mike: My perfect sound signature is still evolving. The best way I could describe it is what some might describe as “V” shaped, but I wouldn’t call it that. I like sparkle in the highs (not fatiguing), clarity throughout the mid range and an elevated sub/low bass, not overly elevated, just enough to where it feels right in the mix. The AR6 has changed what I thought my ideal sound sig was, just wait until I merge the two :wink:

    What are the biggest differences in your professional musician customers and audiophile customers?

    Mike: There are musicians who just need a tool to hear a click or the band, so that’s pretty basic. Then you have musicians with more of an audiophile sense and they may want a higher fidelity sound. The biggest difference between the professional musicians and audiophiles that I noticed, believe it or not, has nothing to do with sound. It’s actually in how the CIEM looks. Audiophiles want wild colors, cool designs, and individuality built into their CIEM’s. 

    What is the most difficult part of your job/career?

    Mike: That’s a tough one to answer, so maybe answering this question is, lol. Really though, it would be, being a salesman. I am not a salesman, I won’t try to convince anyone to buy our products, I simply answer any questions anyone would have about our products as honestly as I can, without adding all the extra polish to my words. I dislike being sold to, so I have no desire to push my products onto anyone else. I let people decide on their own, but I do understand in doing so, they sometimes get “sold” on another competitors products instead. 

    Who or what is your favorite band?

    Mike: You saved the two hardest questions (for me) for last. I’m not sure that I have a favorite food, color, or band. I like so much that it’s really hard for me to choose. Lately I have been listening to a lot more alternative, Mumford and Sons, Muse, etc….

    Fast forward to today, we have Mike crafting in-ears in both acrylic and silicone, with not only balanced armature designs with up to 8 drivers per side but also hybrid designs with both dynamic and balanced armature drivers. Perfect Seal also offers canal only shells, full custom shells and hard acrylic shells with soft canals. When it comes to options, no stone is left unturned.

    Recently Mike has released a new series of custom in-ears: The Ambiance Series. The first release in this series is the new Perfect Seal Flagship, the AR6. The A and R stand for Ambiance Reference and the 6 is the balanced armature driver count. The AR6 was designed with soundstage and linear frequency response goals in mind, to wit, the marketing blurb on the website states, “experience superb clarity, awesome resolution and imaging”. The AR6 is offered in acrylic and silicone but Perfect Seal will need to see your impressions first before giving the thumbs up for a silicone build, as the canal pieces in silicone will need to be a little larger than in acrylic. This is due to the 4 sound bore design and the need for more space in silicone with that many bores. Pricing starts at $950 for acrylic and goes up from there.

     
    [​IMG]Blue Purple and Green Purple Swirl on Gottlieb’s Cleopatra


    Manufacturer Specs:

    $950 Acrylic

    1. Six Balanced Armature Drivers
    2. 1 Low Driver
    3. 2 Low/Mid
    4. 2 Mid
    5. 1 Tweeter
    6. 5 way passive crossover
    7. 4 sound bores
    8. Standard 2 pin connector

    I chose silicone for my set, as I’ve previously only had one other experience with silicone in-ears. Mike offers many possibilities when it comes to colors, designs and finishes; many of which aren’t really shown on the website, so it’s a good idea to contact Perfect Seal when ordering and discuss your aesthetic aspirations. I decided to go with a swirl of his ‘blue purple’ color along with the ‘green purple’ color. The dedicated AR6 thread on Head-Fi has some pictures of a beautiful orange acrylic set that is a must see!

    Perfect Seal customs come with a customized S3 case, which is similar to an Otterbox. The customized foam insert has a slot for the cleaning tool, an open area to lay our wound cable and possibly a silica drying pod, as well as two small areas for each ear piece. The stock cable looks to be standard issue PlasticsOne Motion series cables, which comes with a 3.5mm right angle plug that is smart phone case friendly, SPC tinsel wire, rugged Y-split, neck slider and memory wire at the overmolded 2-pin connectors.

    [​IMG]

     

    SOUND

    I’d say the AR6 is a very slightly mid-centric take on reference tuning. There is a little boost in the upper mid, making it really clear sounding but not necessarily forward sounding. Bass linearity is excellent and extends into the deepest depths. Lower treble is slightly laid back from reference tuning, but picks back up in middle treble providing a nice presence and shimmer, while staying easy to listen to.

    The AR6 has quickly become my favorite in-ear to grab lately. The spaciousness is frankly one of the best I’ve heard. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly how Mike is doing this. Usually designers give a little dip in the midrange and/or elevate treble to give a sense of depth and forward projection. However there is nothing recessed or dipped about the midrange here, and treble is easy on the ears; yet somehow when I put the AR6 in after something else, I hear the midrange as obviously more forward, yet the presentation is slightly in front of me, instead of being right across my eyes or in my head. And while the AR6 doesn’t sound ‘grand’ in width, like say a Tralucent 1+2, it has much more realistic feeling to size proportions and space between the instruments. The depth and precision of the image is second to none. Staging is like being in the recording room with the band but with life-sized spaciousness. There’s almost a binaural dimensionality to it. Almost. It’s really quite unlike any in-ear experience I’ve had to date.

    [​IMG]AR6 with Limited Edition AK100 MK2 and Chord Mojo


    SELECT COMPARISONS

    AR6 VS PERFECT SEAL PS6 ($650)

    Bass
    In terms of quantity, the PS6 has greater quantity but the greater quantity is not by a large margin. Mostly its an increase in mid bass for greater impact, although there is slightly more sub bass presence as well. The AR6 bass is very linear and even across the frequency response, whereas the PS6 has a rise in mid bass, small but tasteful. This gives the PS6 a slightly fuller and richer note over the AR6. With hip hop and rap, the increase in bass is appreciated. The AR6 bass, while not as impactful, has better texture and air for improved resolution and ambiance over the PS6. Both exhibit good balance between speed and decay.


    Midrange
    The midrange is where there is the biggest difference in presentation between the two. With the PS6, vocals sit squarely in the pocket, neither forward or recessed sounding with realistic weight and tone. In contrast the AR6 brings vocals more forward, particularly in the upper midrange. The result is that the AR6 is more resolving of low level vocal detail, like intakes of breath and throat inflections. However the fuller lower midrange and upper bass of the PS6 make for heftier male vocals with a more emotive connection. Where the PS6 may have the edge with male vocals, the AR6 is more evocative with female vocals.


    The lighter note weight of the AR6 and the bump in the upper midrange brings a sense of greater clarity. Distortion guitars are airier and can really soar in the rise of tempo in a rock anthem, whereas the slightly thicker note of the PS6 is more grounded with greater dynamic impact for a richer, more musical approach.

    Treble
    Neither the AR6 or the PS6 are what I’d call bright or forward in treble, rather I’d label both as slightly laid back in treble. However where the AR6 is only a hair laid back in treble, the PS6 is more laid back and easy going in direct comparison. The PS6 is built for long session listening without fatigue. Even though it’s fairly laid back in treble, it still has good tonality and articulation. In contrast the AR6 has more overall treble presence and sparkle.  It is also more resolving and articulate, as well as more extended. Treble details are more apparent and easier to pick out with the AR6.


    Staging, Imaging & Separation
    The AR6, with it’s design attention to ambiance and space, sounds larger and more realistic in staging properties. Instrument separation and placement is one of the most articulated in an in-ear and this is where it really separates itself from it’s PS6 peer. The AR6 is much less in-head and even though the midrange is more forward, it somehow projects itself out front more-so than the PS6. The PS6 by no means sounds small but it’s just not in the same league as the AR6 when it comes to these staging properties.


     

    AR6 VS ULTIMATE EARS REFERENCE MONITOR (DISCONTINUED; REPLACED BY UERR $999)

    Bass
    The UERM is the most neutral in-ear I’ve had the pleasure of listening to but if there is one thing I could change on it, it would be to make the bass presence under 50 hz more present and extended. This is one area the AR6 has the upper hand; it’s is very flat and even into the lowest reaches of its bass capability which is about 25 hz before it starts rolling off heavily. Due to these differences in bass tuning, the AR6 has more deep bass rumble and low bass texture but seems just a hair lacking in mid bass impact next to the UERM. While the UERM lacks the deepest extension and rumble/texture next to the AR6, it makes up for it with more realistic drum timbre and impact. Bass details seem just a bit more solid and delineated in the UERM under direct comparison.


    Midrange
    The UERM is known to be a hair laid back in the upper midrange, so the AR6 is a good contrast to the UERM with it’s bump in presence in that area of midrange. Similar to the PS6 comparison, the AR6 seems to be more evocative with female vocals and the UERMwith male vocals but the edge the AR6 held over the PS6 is greatly reduced here.


    Both the AR6 and UERM can absolutely soar with distortion guitars and rock anthems but the approach is slightly different. The AR6 does it with its rise in the upper midrange and the UERM with it’s fuller middle mid and brighter lower treble. The end result is distortion guitars have more bite, edge and crunch with AR6 but sound fuller and airier with the UERM.

    Treble
    Where the AR6 achieves it’s clarity and any perceived brightness is in the upper midrange, the UERM achieves it through a brighter overall presentation throughout the treble. The UERM has more lower, middle and upper treble presence. It is a clean, bright and sparkly treble that never sounds piercing or harsh to my ears. I find the AR6 treble just as resolving but it doesn’t bring treble detail to your attention as much as the UERM does. This difference in treble presence is one of the characteristics that differentiates their staging properties as well.


    Staging, Imaging & Separation
    Both the AR6 and UERM are two of the largest sounding in-ears in my experience but the way it’s achieved is very different. Where the UERM sounds open ended, airy and very wide, more like an outdoor venue presentation, the AR6 sounds more like an in the studio presentation. While terms like in the studio and outdoor venue read like differences between small and large, that’s not the case here at all. The AR6 staging has very realistic proportions with life size spaciousness. At times the AR6 almost presents staging details as if you are listening to binaural recordings. Everything is so precisely placed, there is a great sense of three-dimensionality to the AR6 just not achieved in anything I’ve heard before. The UERM is it’s staging compliment with the more wide and open concert appeal. While I’ve always thought the UERM displays excellent depth, and it truly does, it’s not comparable to the lifelike spaciousness of the AR6.


     

    AR6 VS EMPIRE EARS ZEUS ($2099)

    Bass
    While bass on Zeus does hits a bit harder and has more rumble as well, the most obvious difference is in the reverberation of the Zeus bass. Zeus bass lingers longer, sounding bolder and richer in tone. In direct comparison the AR6 bass is tighter and faster and as a consequence the AR6 sounds a good bit leaner overall compared to Zeus. The AR6 has excellent bass texture but bass texture and reverberation are a showcase piece to the Zeussignature.


    Midrange
    The midrange is really the star of the show on both models. Zeus has a fuller lower and middle midrange emphasis compared to the AR6, which seems more linear overall but has slight boost in the upper midrange. As a result, distortion guitars have a greater weight and heft in Zeus, again sounding thicker and richer. Next to the Zeus, the AR6 sounds leaner, airier and more nimble. Soaring guitars and dual leads truly soar with the AR6 but drop D tuning sounds heavier and sleazier with Zeus. On acoustic guitars, the AR6 brings out the sound of the pick hitting strings and the twang of the strings across the neck but Zeusbrings more focus to the vibration of the strings over the sound hole and resulting reverberations.


    Vocals are also treated pretty differently on both as well. With Halestorm, Lzzy’s voice really grabs you by the throat with great clarity and superb energy on the AR6; every breathe, throat inflection is revealed but on Zeus she is darker, more brooding with the greater lower midrange emphasis. In contrast, Zeus really makes the emotional connection in male vocals. Radney Fosters ‘Godspeed’ is exquisitely intimate and fraught with the love of a parent for child separated by the distance of a touring musician.

    Treble
    I’ve mentioned treble being just a tiny bit laid back from neutral on the AR6 but Zeus treble is definitely more laid back than the AR6. The AR6 has a sense of brightness and clarity through the treble when directly comparing with Zeus. However Zeus treble is still just as articulate and resolving, it’s just pushed a little further back in the sonic image. Whereas the AR6 carries some airiness and daylight from the upper midrange through treble, Zeuswould never be described as airy.


    Staging, Imaging & Separation
    I’ve written with much emphasis on how special and unique the AR6 staging properties are with it’s life-like proportions and 3 dimensional presentation, however Zeus is also pretty special when it comes to its staging presentation as well. Zeus has incredible depth of presentation for an in-ear and is one of the deepest I’ve heard. Perhaps only the FitEarTG334 rivals this quality of depth. Zeus peals the layers back, exposing yet another layer of depth, after layer of depth. The precision of the layered presentation is Zeus most striking feature.


    In direct comparison, the AR6 sounds distinctly wider and does a more precise image from left to right, which also leads to greater feeling of space and air between instruments. While both exhibit excellent height, the AR6 height is more proportional to its width and depth, whereas Zeus is definitely taller than it is wide. The AR6 depth is a realistic depth that is, again, proportional to its width and height. Zeus is more mind blowingly deep. It’s depth jumps off the sonic scape and instantly wows you. The AR6 staging prowess is more subtle in comparison and is less noticeable in noisy environs than quite environs, at least thats how my brain is interpreting what I hear.

    [​IMG]

    CONCLUSION

    The AR6 rivals anything top of the line being put out by anyone. Period. I’m seriously in awe of its presentation and I haven’t been this excited about an in-ear since I first received the UERM. At a starting price of $950, the AR6 is a veritable steal in the growing landscape of flagship custom in-ears, not to mention Mike’s attention to customer service is one of the best around.

    For more product information visit Perfect Seal Laboratories at:  website – facebook 

    Note: Review originally published on CYMBACAVUM.

    [​IMG]
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  3. flinkenick
    Perfect Seal sets the 'Ambiance'
    Written by flinkenick
    Published Jan 6, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Soundstage size, imaging, airiness, tonality
    Cons - bass impact can be on the low side, fullness in presentation
    Introduction
    You know that feeling of waking up when you’re on holidays and opening up the window in the morning. Taking in a deep breath, and looking out over the countryside hills or the sea; some little sheep here and there, a couple of trees and in between: all that space.. That’s the AR6 in a nutshell. The soundstage might only be slightly above average in width - but the airiness between the instruments gives it a unique spacious feel.
     
    Perfect Seal
    You know back in the day - I mean like way back, hundreds of years ago - men had honest professions working with their hands. You’d go in training as a kid, and emerge a master blacksmith or woodworker in your late teens. A skillful artisan, that knows his trade. That’s the kind of guy Mike from Perfect Seal is. Or at least how I’d like to picture him in the spirit of the underdog, compared to the big established companies. Mike made his mark in the hearing aid business, but his main focus and interest has been reshelling and designing custom in ears. At the moment, Perfect Seal is still only one of the few companies worldwide that can work with both silicone and acrylic, as well as provide all kinds of hybrids with the two materials.
     
    The current Perfect Seal lineup is the PS series, with models ranging from 2 – 8 BA drivers. It's aimed at both audiophiles and musicians. Perfect Seal also offers the Sportbud series for general music use in every day activities like working out, or working in the yard etc. But he’s taking a completely different direction with the ‘Ambiance’ series – geared more towards a reference tuning for audiophiles, although musicians will also enjoy them. The name couldn’t have been chosen better - the new line is devoted to a pleasant atmosphere, although each model will have a different ‘feel’ to it. Presenting the first model in the range: the 6 BA driver AR6.
     
    Specifications
    -6 BA drivers (1 low, 2 low/mid, 2 mid, 1 tweeter)
    -5-way passive crossover
    -4 soundbores
    -Impedance: TBA
    -Frequency range: TBA
    -Price (acrylic/silicone): $950 / $1150
     
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    Impressions
    Listening was done with a Hifiman 901S (minibox amp card). The reviewed AR6 is the acrylic model. The AR stands for ‘Ambiance Reference’, and I’d say it leans a bit closer to the first word than the second. While it’s not completely reference-tuned, there’s all the more ambiance. The AR6’ signature is neither particularly warm or bright, but is pretty neutral up until an upper midrange lift which gives it an overall pleasant and clear tonality.
     
    But this is one of the rare cases where signature is secondary to a different feature: the soundstage. The AR6 was specifically designed for a wide and airy soundstage. The AR6’ soundstage is wider in width, than depth and height. Instruments and vocals diffuse out evenly in a half circle, creating a spread out but realistic soundstage. The clean mid-bass doesn’t interfere with the midrange, allowing a great deal of space and airiness between the instruments, and consequentially the instrument positioning and separation is outstanding. The AR6’ presentation is neither too forward or laidback, although the soundstage and instrument size can make the instruments positioning appear distant at times.
     
    Bass
    The sub-bass is fast, clean and precise, while hitting with good depth and control. The mid-bass’ tone is fairly neutral, with good detail, but a bit on the low side of impact. The mid-bass’ presentation does not interfere with the midrange, but does its work steadily in the background. Overall the AR6’s bass tone is very close to neutral, with good technical abilities.
     
    Mids
    The lower midrange is not very prominent, but this is where the designer’s intention becomes apparent: while it is not the fullest midrange, this provides a vast amount of space and airiness between the instruments. The center midrange has a neutral tone and is relatively clean. The upper midrange has a lift, which besides giving it a pleasant tonality provides a great deal of transparency and detail. Acoustics sound realistic and very inviting. Female vocals are clear and slightly forward while male vocals can sound a bit more distant due to the lower midrange dip. In accordance, average note thickness is on the lower side, although this in turn again contributes to the excellent separation. Try your best, and you will never be able to find a track that sounds congested. Overall, the midrange has good resolution, while the upper midrange lift gives it a nice tone as well as transparency.
     
    Treble
    The treble is clear, with good extension and sparkle. Its tone is a bit bright, with a hint of warmth. The AR6’ treble has good speed and decay, although the resolution can suffer with fast music. But the treble has good presence and energy, and sounds relatively smooth although there is a slight peak in the lower treble on occasion. As such it can lack a bit of refinement compared to TOTL’s, but overall the treble has all the important factors to sound exciting, while contributing to overall transparency.
     
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    The AR6’ standout trait is of course its soundstage and airiness. It’s second is its tone, marked by the upper midrange lift, and the clean and flat bass. The AR6 is the scout that goes ahead and climbs up high. It treads with light foot, but peers far around into the horizon. As such, the AR6 has qualities what will easily appeal to a large crowd. So how are these properties translated to music? I’m going off record here, as this is the part where it gets very subjective. In line with its name, I find myself reaching for ambient music: acoustics with beautiful female vocals, nice jazz where the transparency shines through or ambient electronic music because of the clear tones. Softer rock like Radiohead will also work wonderfully. While it has the tonality and treble sparkle for energetic electronic music, its bass is on the lighter side. The airiness and separation works as an ‘anti-congestant’ for rock music, although there is a tradeoff here for the average note thickness. But keep in mind opinions will differ as I have spoken to some that appreciate the soundstage presentation especially for rock or metal.
     
    Select Comparisons
     
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    EarSonics Velvet 
    The Velvet and AR6 share some key features: a wide spacious soundstage with a lift in the upper midrange that defines their tonality, and helps with detail retrieval. The AR6’ soundstage does have more depth and airiness. Their treble is more or less similar, both having a good deal of sparkle with the Velvet putting out more energy. This is partially due to the Velvet’s pronounced U-shape: the midrange is pushed back a great deal more, with the enhanced treble on the foreground. The AR6 finds more balance between the midrange and treble, and this is reflected in its soundstage: instruments and vocals diffuse out more evenly in all directions. Their biggest difference is in the bass department: The Velvet’s bass is significantly enhanced compared to the neutral AR6. So while they do share some similarities, the difference is in their presentation. The Velvet is the basshead iem, the AR6 the balanced ‘ambient’ one.
     
    Rhapsodio Solar 
    You could consider the AR6 a bit of a Solar ‘light’, as they share a somewhat similar tonality. Both have an upper midrange lift and slightly enhanced treble. But while the Solar’s bass is also clean and fast, it is a great deal more enhanced, specifically the mid-bass. This provides more size, fullness and warmth to the midrange, at the cost of soundstage width and airiness. Note sustain is longer with the Solar; notes linger a bit longer giving the Solar slightly smoother and more laidback presentation in the midrange. The AR6 has slightly more treble presence, although the Solar has better note articulation with faster notes. Concerning soundstage, the AR6’ is slightly wider, while the Solar’s is deeper. The AR6 and Solar share some similarities; specifically the upper midrange lift and slightly forward treble. But if I’d have to summarize their main difference in one sentence, it would be: bass-fueled fullness versus soundstage space and airiness, where only preference will determine the outcome.
     
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    (Photos credit to Victor van der Boom)
    1. View previous replies...
    2. flinkenick
      Thanks guys, appreciate the comments!
      flinkenick, Jan 7, 2016
    3. Synthyss
      Perfect review, enlightening comparison section. Thanks bro!
      Synthyss, Jan 14, 2016
    4. flinkenick
      Thanks Synthss appreciate that!
      flinkenick, Jan 16, 2016