[Review] Future Sonics MG6PRO Ear Monitors: Dynamic Driver Custom-Fit In-Ear Monitors
Feb 16, 2011 at 12:27 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1,181


Headphoneus Supremus
Jan 25, 2010

Synopsis: The Future Sonics MG6Pro Ear Monitor is an excellent sounding custom earphone tuned for a supremely natural sound. The overall sound is very smooth, extended in bass and treble, and very well balanced by the clear midrange. The excellent reproduction of vocal and instrumental timbre, combined with superior soundstage and sense of stereo imagining are also standouts. Using a single dynamic driver which can cover the entire frequency spectrum without the need for crossovers gives the MG6PRO Ear Monitor a coherency which adds to the naturalness of its presentation. The bass deserves special mention for its control and its effortless extension down to the sub-bass frequencies. Additionally, the 13mm dynamic driver can move the air against our ears in a way balanced armatures cannot—this leads to better bass energy as we “feel” bass as much as we hear it. The amount of bass can also be adjusted to anyone’s taste by a changeable system of vents which allow the driver more or less airflow.

Introduction: I’ve always really been drawn to earphones that feature a dynamic driver (also known as a moving-coil). These are basically like the speakers in one’s home stereo, only smaller. When I looked around for a custom-fit earphone, however, I noticed that almost every company uses balanced armatures, a technology used in hearing aids. One company, however, has been offering a dynamic driver custom in-ear monitors on stage for years. In fact, Future Sonics has been doing it so long they trademarked the term “Ear Monitor” and the owner, Marty Garcia, was the first to put custom in-ear monitors on stage, back in 1985. The fact that Future Sonics used a dynamic driver and the length of experience made me curious. Even more curious was the fact that while they are well-known in professional music circles for supplying Ear Monitors over the years to bands like The Grateful Dead, U2, Reba McEntire, Justin Timberlake, etc., they aren’t so well known in audiophile circles.
History and Background: When I had a chance to speak to Marty Garcia, the owner, and David Gray, director of operations, it was clear that the use of a dynamic driver in their custom earphone was the result of careful thought. While every other custom earphone manufacturer that I am aware of buys their transducers from outside manufacturers, Future Sonics engineers their own. The new for 2010 MG6Pro is a proprietary driver designed and made by Future Sonics. The history as I understand it from talking to Mr. Garcia is that he experimented with using balanced armature transducers multi-armature designs with crossovers. He consulted for Shure on their early designs and politely parted ways when he decided that a single dynamic driver was the way to go. He feels that a single dynamic driver has a number of advantages: It can cover the frequency spectrum by itself, it gives a coherent sound free from any artifacts from a multi-transducer approach and, very importantly, it moves the air that we can feel as well as hear for a more real sounding bass with living energy. Interestingly, when I spoke to K.W.Karth, who designed Monster Cable’s Turbine earphone, he gave many of the same reasons that Monster Cable went with dynamic drivers in their universal fit line of in-ear monitors.  
Disclaimer: I think it’s important to be open and up-front about the way one has received the product reviewed, so everyone can be clear about any underlying motives which might bias the review. Now, the usual price for these is $898. As for me, I paid for mine, however I did receive a small discount.  I had just missed out on a one-time sale on Ear Monitors in celebration of Future Sonics’ 25th anniversary. They were kind enough to offer me a discount that ended up coming to $50 (a slightly larger discount minus the extra I paid going to a Future Sonics’ recommended audiologist on Mr. Garcia’s request). I’m happy for it, of course, but the opinions below will be my best attempts to honestly convey how these earphones sound.
Customer Service: Custom in-ear monitors take a lot of care. Throughout the process, I’ve really been struck by how important the custom service of the company you work with can be. Future Sonics deserves a lot of credit for the very high level of customer service they’ve provided. The fact that the owner of the company made time to really discuss his product and the philosophy behind it on several occasions speaks to how Future Sonics treats its customers. All my concerns (and I am a high-maintenance customer, so this is a lot of random concerns) have been graciously answered in over 60 emails…and counting! They have really gone the extra mile and treated me like the rock star most of their other customers are. Consider this as part of the disclaimer when I say that the excellent customer service and the way Future Sonics has gone out of their way again and again to make sure I was completely happy is certainly a part of the reason my experience has been so positive.
One of the first steps in getting a custom in-ear monitor is a trip to an experienced audiologist to make ear impressions which will be used to make an earphone which fits your unique ears perfectly. I went to Andrew Resnick, a Manhattan audiologist and Future Sonics dealer. He was professional and had a lot of experience in making ear impressions for musicians’ Ear Monitors. I won’t say that this means I haven’t needed adjustments to make the fit of my MG6PRO Ear Monitors perfect, but I think it has helped to start with a good set of impressions.
The MG6Pro: This is a custom in-ear monitor with a 13mm dynamic driver at its heart. My understanding is that Future Sonics released the MG6 early in 2010 to audio professionals and field tested it. They took that feedback and improved the driver further, with the MG6Pro coming out a few months after.
One key point about these customs is that their dynamic drivers are very durable and much more easy to service than armature-based customs, which tend to be more delicate. You can also upgrade your MG6Pro Ear Monitors whenever the next generation comes out for a fraction of the price of a new monitor! Think about that, it’s a great feature.
A second point is that the 13mm driver doesn't require extra room for crossovers, additional drivers, etc. I have small ears and the MG6Pro was no problem at all in terms of fit.
Another interesting thing about these is that while the outer shell is acrylic, but it’s not an all-acrylic design! A dynamic driver requires special positioning and so they use a second, proprietary, material inside to properly seat the driver. This second material is full of tiny bubbles and that gives a clear acrylic MG6Pro Ear Monitor an interesting look (of course, it can also come in many different colors, even in a chrome finish).
Another interesting feature is the system of Low-Frequency Vents (LFVs). In order to move the air for living bass energy, a dynamic driver needs to breathe. The 4 LFVs are little tiny interchangeable plugs with a hole (the vent) in them. They vary from a smaller hole to a medium hole to a larger hole, or no hole at all. One can easily be removed and another size vent used in its place. Each larger size brings up the sub-bass presence and energy up a bit. It also effects isolation, which I’ll discuss next.
Isolation: This, like the bass, is dependent on the Low-Frequency Vents. Using the LFV which closes off the vent, one achieves what I imagine is the exactly the same isolation as any other acrylic custom monitor. This is very good isolation indeed. With LFVs which allow air to pass, there is a loss of a few decibels of isolation, but the isolation is still reasonable, depending on your needs. Going out into a wind-tunnel of a chilly winter day with the MG6Pro and the medium size opening LVFs, there was decent isolation, but there was wind noise as well. You gain something in sound for any loss, though, so it all depends on your situation. I like to use the medium sized vents and have no problem using it on the subway, but then, my isolation needs aren’t so great. If I needed more isolation, I might use the LFV which seals the vent entirely, for maximum outside noise reduction. One could also very easily place a bit of foam (it's easy to buy replacement foam for cheap earbuds/earphones) in a vent and adjust  the bass and isolation perfectly to one's liking.
The Sound: The head audio engineer for the Country Music Awards told me (yes, I emailed him and asked what he thought) that Future Sonics Ear Monitors offered “true reference quality sound”, in his opinion. I’m not a professional audio engineer, but I can definitely hear where he’s coming from.
The overall sound signature is natural, balanced and engaging.
What natural means to me is that the MG6Pro doesn’t sound colored or boosted to me anywhere in its frequency range. It also refers to the superior timbre—that hard to define but easy to recognize ability to convey the true-to-life sound of all the richness and subtle resonance of an instrument such as the human voice or a violin. I think that these qualities are part of what the senior audio engineer I politely pestered was talking about.   
Balanced means to me that I don’t hear a certain frequency range coming ahead of any other, generally speaking. With the LFVs, this can change a little according to one’s taste, as I’ll mention below.  Other earphones may be tuned with a very forward midrange, or a boosted extra-bright treble or a mid-bass hump to give beats extra bounce—the MG6Pro has none of these, to my ears. I think people who want a colored (“fun”) sound won’t necessarily find that the MG6Pro is for them. It’s just a matter of knowing what kind of sound you are looking for and matching your preference to the earphone you buy.
And that brings me to the last adjective, engaging. These are professional reference and stage monitors and very smooth at every frequency, but they can really rock and I often find myself listening for longer and enjoying my music more.
Treble: This is a stage monitor in its tuning, so the treble is non-sibilant and non-fatiguing. The treble is well-extended, and nicely shines and sparkles. It’s very accurate and both violins and female vocalists, as well as cymbals, chimes, etc. all come alive with a good recording and the MG6Pro. However, it’s not the sharp, bright treble of a lot of earphones, so perhaps some people might say it’s not as bright at first. I spoke to Marty Garcia about how some people found his Atrios (universal-fit earphone) line a bit dark. From his own work as professional audio engineer and working with professional music clientele, he felt that it was better to give a natural treble than one he thought was artificially boosted. I can say the MG6Pro has a great natural treble with presence and sparkle. Lovers of treble on the edgy bright side may wish to look elsewhere.   
Mid-range: The mids of the MG6Pro really let the music sing without getting in the way. Whenever I try to describe them, I try listening to some music…and end up listening and listening… So, I think I can say first that they are not recessed, nor are they overly forward. It’s not a thin-sounding earphone by any stretch, but notes aren’t overly thick nor does the decay overstay its welcome. They are quite well-detailed, but not artificially analytical. I think you can see why I keep coming back to natural and balanced as descriptions.
Bass: I was surprised by just how well mannered and controlled the bass on these was while still giving that moving-air living bass energy that I wanted. It’s very well detailed and layered. The bass doesn’t have a mid-bass hump and doesn’t intrude on the midrange. It does, however, extend down all the way past human perception. Marty Garcia mentioned that Ear Monitors are intentionally engineered to give bass down to 10hz (where we can’t really hear it) because he feels that the feeling of the air against our ears at that vibration still adds something meaningful. I have to say that I have experienced what he means, it’s really something interesting and there is a life and a dimension of space added to the bass somewhere deep in that sub-bass range.  Further, I can also say that there really is something to this moving air quality that is part of our perception of bass. This is one of the key things that sets the MG6Pro apart from armature-based customs as they don’t move the air. When I use my fingers to plug the MG6Pro’s vents while listening, the effect is immediate and tangible—I feel a slight but noticeable pressure in my ears from the driver moving air! It’s also not recommended, but I did it for science.
On to the Low Frequency Vents: With the LFV which seals the vent entirely, the air cannot fully move and the sub-bass takes a step back. It’s very well controlled and still quite muscular when the song calls for it, but sounds to my ears politely as though it allows the mids, and treble to take the lead forward. This is probably many audiophiles’ idea of balance and they will love this sound. The isolation is also the greatest with this LFV.
The small opening LFV lets the driver breath and the sub-bass takes on that added dimension of life and comes up a little, with a loss of some isolation. The sense of space and soundstage also increases. The bass quantity is equal with the midrange to my ears and things will be just right for many listeners.
The medium opening, well, this is my favorite at the moment and I would say it’s pretty great as the sub-bass comes up by a decibel or so, yet still balanced.
Even at the largest opening LFV, the bass is well controlled, but it’s presence and space have increased. I could see this LFV being very nice for stage use. Lovers of bass will like this setting as well, although I would not say it’s overmuch to my ears.
Music genres: I tend to listen to classical and Indian classical music, both types of music that require excellent timbre, good levels of detail while remaining natural-sounding and excellent extension in the bass and treble. Anyone who thinks that classical music lacks bass has never heard a timpani or double bass in a symphony! The MG6Pro handles these music types very well, sounding coherent yet with the spaciousness to avoid any congestion. Every part of the orchestra sounds clear, even as they are all playing together. Stereo imaging, the out-of-the-head sense that each musician is playing in a different space, is excellent. I was happy to note that the non-sibilant treble could also extend high and sparkle with piccolo trills, chimes and sopranos hitting the highest of notes. String quartets sound lovely, solo piano, too. Jazz is another genre the MG6Pro does very well with, unsurprisingly. Indian classical music presents a special challenge in terms of very, very fast drumming (the tabla's treble drum) and a variable-pitch precise low frequency (the tabla's bass drum) combined with micro-tonal precision in the melodic instruments--such as the famous sitar--which have a number of strings resonating sympathetically underneath the main melodic ones. All this leads to music with a lot of very subtle and complex tonal colors which stretch the frequency spectrum from base to very high treble and go from very slow to very, very fast. It's a challenge for any earphone and the MG6Pro handles this hard-to-produce music superbly and just like I've heard it live in concert. And that's really saying something.
I also listened to some fast trance and some Norwegian death metal to see if the MG6pro could keep up. While they aren’t my cup of tea music genres, the MG6Pro is clearly completely at home with trance, its spaciousness is unreal for this music. In fact, I would say that the MG6Pro are fanstatic earphones for trance. It has the speed for the death metal, every hoarse shout and growl was…you know, I really need to talk to the guy who recommended that…However, a person who listens mainly to death metal with a lot of heavy distortion may not appreciate the truly excellent reproduction of guitars and voices this earphoes has. In that case, perhaps a different custom with a multi-armature design (most other brands) might be an option. 
For a bit of rock I listened to one of my favorite drummers, Thomas Pridgen, and a few tracks from the band he used to be with, The Mars Volta. The MG6Pro captures his drumming very nicely and I’m happy to report that his cymbals sound perfectly real, which is something that many earphone can't reproduce nearly as well.
There really isn’t a type of music I could see causing a problem for these earphones. That’s what you expect at this level. It’s nice to confirm, though.
In Conclusion: I think these custom in-ear monitors have a lot to recommend them for professional or audiophile use. They certainly deserve more attention from audiophiles as they have a high quality sound with excellent customer service. The MG6Pro reproduces music in a realistic and natural-sounding way that puts even much more expensive custom earphones to shame in direct comparison. The way they can be upgraded to the next generation driver for a fraction of the cost of a new custom, their durability and ease of repair and the way the bass quantity can be adjusted make them a very strong choice. Certainly those who come from dynamic driver earphones or headphones should think about the MG6Pro Ear Monitor, as well as those wanting a balanced, natural sound at every part of the frequency range. Those who like a very bright or a colored sound or if isolation is more important than sound quality might wish to look at other options.
Update! One year later, I'm still very happy with my MG6Pro!
Be sure to check the next two posts for pictures of the MG6Pro and comparisons with the JH16(demo), UE IERM (demo), FS MG7 Atrios, Sony Ex1000, Monster Turbine Pro Copper and Miles Davis. Plus, short discussions on amping, cable upgrades, and the idea of burn-in.
Feb 16, 2011 at 12:28 AM Post #2 of 1,181


Headphoneus Supremus
Jan 25, 2010
Let's start with this lovely set:


From the FS website


These actually aren't my set, but the photography is much better, so I'm borrowing the picture so you can see the dynamic driver, as well as get a sense of the non-acrylic, proprietary material Future Sonics uses to seat the driver and the space around it. The outer shell surrounding the driver and other material is acrylic. Apparently, these are put together a bit differently than most other customs. The durability of these is very, very good and they are easily serviced and upgraded as well.

Here is another view. The cable actually does fit flush with the monitor, I just didn't bother to push it all the way in for the picture and now I feel a little silly...
Notice the Low Frequency Vent (LFV), this is the small opening, there is also a medium size, a large size and one that seals the vent completely. These vary how much the driver can breathe, effecting the quantity of the sub-bass.

These are a few of the Low Frequency Vents...the sealed one, the smaller size and the larger size (the medium was on my MG6Pro Ear Monitors). You get two full sets of these.

A set of blue MG6Pro Ear Monitors with clear tips, sorry they are a bit dusty with some, uh, schmutz on the edge of the entrance of the nozzle. Well, I'm sure that's what everyone came to see...

Slightly dusty (sorry) blue MG6Pro with clear tips. Look closely and find the hair that's in the picture!
The outer acrylic shell is very well done, any spots you see are the wipe-off-able kind.

This is a picture from the Future Sonics Facebook page of a nice green set of Ear Monitors.


Another picture I borrowed from FS, Ricky Martin has a set like these.

Feb 16, 2011 at 12:28 AM Post #3 of 1,181


Headphoneus Supremus
Jan 25, 2010
Review Annex:
Miscellanous topics!
1. Comparison with JH16
2. Comparison with UE In-Ear Reference Monitor
3. Comparison with the 8-BA driver, 4-way Heir Audio 8.A
4. Comparison with the Sony EX1000
5. Comparison with Future Sonics universal fit Atrios with MG7 driver
6. Brief comparison with Monster Turbine Pro Copper and with Monster Miles Davis earphones
7. Comments on the use of a portable amp
8. Comments on archival recordings
9. Direct comparison of a new MG6Pro with one that has "Burned-in"
10. Custom made pure silver cables versus stock cables
Comparison with JHA JH16!
How fun! I heard a universal fit demo version of the JH16 recently and compared it to my MG6Pro Ear Monitors.
Is this fair? Yes and no, a universal fit demo isn't going to fit as well and the sound experience wouldn't quite be exactly the same, but it should be quite close. However, due to circumstances, my dynamic driver MG6Pro haven't had a chance to fully break-in (or, if you are the type to use a pair of brand-new, off-the-shelf hiking boots on a 20 mile weekend hike because you don't believe in break-in, then let's say that my brain hasn't had a chance to fully adjust to the sound). Additionally, while I have a good enough fit to enjoy my customs and have a very good sense of their sound, the fit isn't perfect, so I will need to send them back and get a re-fit. That can happen with any custom earphone, without exception. So, while some might feel their blood pressure rise, let's take this comparison for fun and hopefully you'll learn something just as I did.
Synopsis: The MG6Pro Ear Monitors sound markedly more natural and have significantly better timbre for a more real sound of both instruments and vocals. The treble has more sparkle, better balance and less hiss. The MG6Pro with LFVs open (I only had a chance to compare with the vents with the smallest opening) is more spacious sounding. The mids have better balance with the treble and bass. The bass has a more realistic quality to it and better extension.  The MG6Pro handle fast and complex music very well in an organic way, the JH16 also have good speed. I could imagine some who prefer armature iems perhaps choosing a top-tier, but I can't recommend the Jh16. In direct comparison, there were some significant timbre issues with the JH16 that might not be as noticable without that comparison.
Treble: While the JH16 use a Knowles TWFK, which has a spike in the 5-7khz range, the JH16 were quite free from sibilance to my ears at moderate listening levels--only becoming harsh at higher volumes. In fact, they sounded a little dark in comparison to the MG6Pro, perhaps partly due to the foam tips on the universal demo (foam tips tend to eat a little of the sharp edge from a sibilant earphone). The MG6Pro had more sparkle and, to my ears, had a better, more neutral balance that let violins sing while being non-fatiguing. An example of that would be on the Vivaldi string concertos with Pinchas Zuckerman leading that I listened to. I also listened to one of my favorite audio-testing pieces, Hovhaness' Symphony #50 "Mount St. Helens". The last movement depicts the titanic explosion which changed the mountain forever. Every part of the frequency range is tested with timpani, strings, horns, cymbals and chimes all playing! Surprisingly, compared directly to the MG6Pro, the JH16 made cymbals sound thin, metallic and tinny. This may be due to the use of the TWFK driver, which is known for poor timbre and unfortunately giving cymbals, pianos and other instruments a tinny, metallic sound they shouldn't have. JH16 owners might not notice this having gotten used to the sound, but it was clear coming from the MG6Pro. There was an additional timbre issue in the lower treble which showed up with a recording of an alto-range, richly voiced woman (and in recordings with a man singing countertenor, such as the Bach Cantatas directed by Ton Koopman I listened to), as well as darker sounding viola-range string instruments which made things sound less real. Again, this is in direct comparison to the really excellent timbre of the MG6Pro.
Mids: Really the main difference was that things sounded more real with better timbre with the MG6Pro. This is an across-the-board finding with everything I listened to, several different classical pieces, Indian classical, jazz, some Gorillaz for a bit of pop, etc.
I should note here that there is, of course, the difference between a single dynamic driver and the multi-armature design of the JH16. The MG6Pro sounds more coherent, while still having very good separation and clarity. The JH16 sounds a bit like the different instruments were recorded separately and mixed together post-production. I have noticed that several people in JH16 owner threads have been looking for ways to try to correct this lack of coherency they hear in their JH16s. It's also possible that some people may very well like the Jh16's non-realistic presentation better, feeling that they can listen to each piece of music separately, rather than as a clear, but organic whole. The timbre issue is another story, though, I can't really see anyone preferring the JH16 on that.
Bass: The JH16 does have a full amount of bass and it's high quality, though missing a living quality. It sounds flat after hearing the MG6Pro. The MG6Pro has a quality of bass which makes the bass sound more real than the JH16 and the bass extention is better on the MG6Pro. The MG6Pro has a variable quantity of bass using the Low Frequency Vents (LFVs), so the listener can choose for their taste. For those used to armature iems, probably either one will more than satisfy, but I think in direct comparison that there's an interesting and audible difference with the way the dynamic driver gives the real feeling and sound of bass and it's far superior.
Other notes: The JH16 doesn't come off so well partly because it's going up against the major strengths of the MG6Pro, namely natural sound and balance for vocal and instrumental music, much of it acoustic, with some pop music. However, that doesn't mean that the JH16 isn't good. I am a little hesitant to say that "well, some people will love it" because in direct comparison, the timbre issues with the JH16 were surprising and disappointing. Fast techno is handled very well by both, the spaciousness of the MG6Pro exceeds that of the JH16, but the JH16 is good there, too. I initially thought that the JH16 may have more speed, but it turns out that the MG6Pro does excellently with well-recorded fast metal passages. People often say that the JH line is great for rock. Maybe that's true, I didn't hear it with the Gorillaz I used to compare. Again, someone who didn't have another top-tier custom to compare it to might not notice some of the things I'm noticing--we're talking about a relatively high standard here. Also, compared to a different earphone, the JH16 might very well do much better. Keep in mind again that the darker treble I heard may be due to the universal fit demo used foam tips--these can hide the sibilance some have reported with the JH16. No doubt a custom-fit JH16 will sound a bit different.
I also want to say that part of the reason I've had a very good experience with the MG6Pro, while they do a lot very well, I also did my homework and thought about what I wanted from an earphone. I wanted a natural sound with excellent timbre, excellent extention above and below, coherency, a real bass sound that I could feel and hear, balance between the frequency ranges, sparkle in the treble, yet no sibilance, isolation was important but not the very most imporant, customer service and honest dealing was very important etc. Do your homework and I think you will be happy, too.
Post-script: As two people have trolled me and another was upset that I went against the hype surrounding the Jh16 and gave my honest opinion, let me say that I've understated how poorly the Jh16 demo did against the MG6Pro. I really went out of my way in writing the above comparison to make it seem more of a competition than it really was to my ears. The MG6Pro was better by far in the realistic reproduction of vocal and instrumental music and the bass, soundstage and treble were far better as well.
Brief Comparison with the Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitor
The UE IERM is a triple balanced armature driver, three-way crossover custom iem. I've had a chance to have an extended time with a universal fit version. The IERM is a very nice custom iem tuned for a flat, detailed sound. It's a very nice ciem, with excellent clarity, and very good reproduction of the subtle nuance of instrumental and vocal music (timbre). I like it a lot. Let's look at how it compares with the MG6Pro.
Treble: The IERM has a nice treble, reasonably well extended, not too bright, but not dark. The IERM overall is tuned toward neutrality and accuracy. There was a region in the lower treble where there is some lack of smoothness. I have a recording of one of the new generation of female sitarists (Indian classical music) which brought this out. The MG6Pro was smoother throughout this range. While the IERM is flatter, the MG6Pro has more life in the treble and overall. There's more treble energy as well, without being bright. It's a more lively take on an accurate sound.
Mids:  The IERM again has a flat sounding midrange. It's slightly thin and a bit dry sounding. That could be a plus if one likes this, as the upside is that it's a clear, accurate sound without losing the naturalness of the recording. This is a big strength of the IERM. One has the impression that nothing is added to the recording one is listening to. The MG6Pro is slightly warmer and fuller of note, without being overly so. It also sounds accurate and true to the note, in a way that is more involving.
Bass: Okay, the IERM is definitely not a bass monster. It does have a nice bass, though. It's well controlled and sounds appropriate to the music, for the most part. However, it lacks sub-bass a bit. I think folks who are not so into bass will be quite happy with it. As you might imagine, the MG6Pro is a lot more capable of bass extension and has a more lively bass without giving anything in terms of detail. Once one is used to the bass of the MG6Pro--and I don't mean in amount (that is adjustible in terms of sub-bass, remember)--in terms of real bass energy, it's hard to go back to anything else.
Overall: One thing I was surprised by is that the MG6Pro is every bit as resolving as the IERM. There's nothing I can hear with one that I can't hear with the other, although the presentation is different.
In terms of timbre, the MG6Pro does excellently, but the IERM is not far behind as it does a good job protraying a realistic and natural sound of instruments. The MG6Pro is a bit better at giving a coherent sound--each instrument sounds like they are playing together in the same space rather than sounding artificially mixed in separately, however the IERM does very well at this as well (much better than the JH16, for example) . The IERM does very well at giving the listener the impression they are hearing the music with nothing added or removed (except sub-bass!). However, it's a bit different than the MG6Pro. Maybe the best way to say it is the IERM sounds true to the recording while the MG6Pro sounds true to the live performance. What I mean by that is that the MG6Pro's tuning is a livelier, slightly warmer, more involving, more energetic, less flat take on an authentically natural sound and the dynamic driver gives a uniquely wholistic sound while still being detailed.
The IERM will have a more intimate, smaller sound with its sealed shell, while the vented MG6Pro will have a more open, head-phone like soundstage (and surprisingly little loss of isolation doing it).
The IERM has a lot to commend it and I think people looking for a more dryly flat and accurate sound may prefer it over the more lively naturalness of the MG6Pro. However, I think they may be a minority as the MG6Pro has a more engaging sound.
Comparison with the Heir Audio 8.A
The Heir Audio 8.A is an 8-driver balanced armature custom iem with a 4-way crossover setup. I have one to complement my MG6Pro.
The 8.A is a very nice custom iem with a quite warm sound signature. It has a lot of bass, a thick sounding midrange full of warmth and a non-fatiguing treble which still sings.
Treble: The 8.A manages to avoid any sibilance. It's a smooth, not at all bright treble, very well extended and detailed. The treble is not recessed, but it is slightly dark. Soprano voices and violins still soar nicely, however. It's a very nice treble and deserves notice for how well it gives a not-too-bright sound while having excellent clarity. People who are very sensitive to sibilance have found their dream custom monitor. Unfortunately, cymbals don't do as well in terms of realistic reproduction of sound. Yes, our friend the TWFK balanced armature driver is here ("to give BA iems a bad name" as a friend on head-fi says), although it sounds slightly better than I remember the JH16 sounding, perhaps due to a more skillful job with filters, crossovers and tuning. The MG6Pro is brighter (this is relatively speaking, neither is bright, both are non-fatiguing and non-sibilant) and has more treble energy. The MG6Pro has a more lively, involving treble and the treble shines more. Those wanting the utmost in non-bright treble that can sparkle will like the 8.A more, although the treble energy in the MG6Pro is welcome in a stage monitor, non-fatiguing context. The timbre on the MG6Pro is better and it does excellently with cymbals.
Midrange: The 8.A has a lush, fully thick midrange. It's quite warm sounding. Some people really fall over themselves for this kind of sound and I can see why. You just want to bite into the rich sound of 'cellos, violas and guitars. The 8.A manages this sound yet is still clear and nicely detailed. The MG6Pro has a more delicate sound in the mids, by contrast. It's slightly warm, but much more natural and neutral, yet lively sounding. A solo piano, for example, sings with a more sweetly real note via the MG6Pro--it is better in terms of timbre. Those who want to wallow in their piano and love that extra warmth will want the 8.A, those who want a more natural, yet lively take will want the MG6Pro, it's a matter of choice.
Bass:  The 8.A has a fanstatic bass with a lot of bass quantity. There's plenty of mid-bass and very good sub-bass as well, all very well controlled and ready to go. It's very nicely done, no question, an excellent bass. The MG6Pro, of course, also has fantastic bass. The MG6Pro has adjustible sub-bass with incredible extension and it has less mid-bass for a more neutral sound. Of course, the bass on the supremely bass capable 8.A is lacking that moving-air quality of bass feeling that the vented MG6Pro has. And if you want more or less bass, the MG6Pro gives you choices. That said, they are both very, very good.
Soundstage: I'm making this it's own category because when I have been listening to the 8.A (or any sealed-shell balanced armature custom iem) and go to the MG6Pro with vents open, it's like there's a new dimension to the sound in terms of soundstage. The sound moves from in your head to outside of it, like an open headphone but with isolation that is surprising pretty much as good as my 8.A (maybe minus a bit with wind noise, but it's quite close for me). Of course, people may like it either way. You could say the 8.A is more intimate (with a very good soundstage among other closed shell armature-based ciems), but it's pretty clear that the soundstage is much more open with the MG6Pro with vents open. You could also use the closed vent--the MG6Pro is quite adaptable that way.
Other notes: The 8.A surpasses the other 8-driver ciem I've heard, the JH16, in many ways, one of which is coherency. The 8.A does a much better job than the JH16 of giving the sense that you're listening to music being played together rather than each voice being artificially mixed in. The MG6Pro is the king of coherency, but the 8.A does nicely.
These two custom iems are both very nice, but they are tuned differently.The MG6Pro is a professional stage monitor and gives you the music as it is and rocks doing it. The 8.A is a lushly warm, fun sound on a high-audiophile level. I think a lot of people will love the 8.A and it deserves a place as a top-tier custom iem.
Brief Comparison with the Sony EX1000
The Sony Ex1000 is a top-tier universal with a 16mm dynamic driver. I was asked to write a brief comparison between it and the MG6Pro. I liked the Ex1000, but it's not really fair to compare it to top-tier custom. Keep the law of diminishing returns in mind as you read this!
A better comparison is with the universal-fit Future Sonics Atrio. You can read my short impressions of the Sony Ex1000 and some comparisons with the FS Atrio Here 
In any case, I'll keep this brief, but let's start!
Fit. Okay, fit is problem with the Sony Ex1000 for many people. I do well with sony tips on earphones like the monster turbine pro copper, but they didn't work well for me on the Ex1000. So, I used a set of custom-fit tips on the Ex1000. That's the best way to compare them with a custom-fit earphone like the MG6Pro. The fit and comfort is still not up to par with the MG6Pro, but like I said, it's not a fair comparison, so don't complain!
Overall Sound. Okay, first these comments are only in direct comparison. I like the Ex1000 a lot, but here it's in direct comparison to a more expensive custom earphone. The first impressions I had were that the Ex1000s were thinner in the treble and mid and the emphasis was not in the mid-range, but shifted up into the treble. The Sonys can sound sweet when you are used to them, but in direct comparison, the appropriate warmth, midrange balance and realistic fullness of the MG6Pro gave a sound more true to music (monitor-like, you might say). However, the treble emphasis of the Sony could appeal as well, depending on the music and one's taste. While the MG6Pro has more balance in its mid-centric focus, its treble has more sparkle (sparkle isn't the same as "treble energy" or quantity, it's that shimmer that a bell or a triangle has) and the bass...well the bass on the Ex1000 is nice but here in direct comparsion with a professional stage monitor, it lacks body, punch and extension by quite a bit. I used stock cables with the MG6Pro and there is also more detail in the MG6Pro over the Sony. With silver cables this advantage increases, although I should say that the treble emphasis of the Sony tends to mask this and the Sony does have good clarity and detail compared to other top-tier universal earphones in its class.
Isolation and soundstage. Here's where the great versatility of the MG6Pro's LFV (Low Frequency Vent) system comes into play. I find that the open-vent LFVs do have some wind noise, but they also have enough isolation for the subway, for me at least. The Sony has wind noise, but the overall isolation is less and I found I could not enjoy them on the subway. Now, you can also use the MG6Pro's closed vent LFV, which gives you excellent, top-notch isolation from wind and other noise. With the closed LFV, the bass is still more capable of sub-bass extension than the Ex1000 and for outside/subway use there's no comparison at all. But in a quiet place, if you wanted to match up closed vent MG6Pro vs. Ex1000 for some reason, the vented Sony will have a slightly more open soundstage. Just trying to give the Sony a few points. With the open vents (there are three sizes of open vent), all of them are a bit more headphone-like than the Sony in terms of soundstage, conveying a more realistic sense of space in the music, but the Sonys have excellent soundstage.
The MG6Pro has better extension, a fuller, more realistic sound, plus versatility that no universal can match (nor most customs), so not really a competition. However, the Sony has a beautiful sound that some people will find better than any custom. Sony was aiming for a certain clean, refined sound and with some custom tips and a quiet place, they would do very well indeed.
 Brief Comparisons with Two and Half Universal Fit Dyanamic Driver Earphones
1. The Future Sonics Universal Fit Atrios with new MG7 Driver:
The Atrios is the universal fit earphone offered by Future Sonics, while the MG6pro Ear Monitor is the Custom. The Atrios has a 10mm driver, while the MG6pro has a 13mm driver. Marty Garcia and David Gray at Future Sonics were both very nice and made time for me to speak to them over the phone about their products. Each emphasized that they felt what Future Sonics is offering is a sound signature. That sound is pretty much what I've described in my main review--a natural, balanced sound with clear, non-boosted, non-fatiguing treble, balanced, clear mids and well controlled bass with an excellent foundation of sub-bass. They both told me that both the Atrios and the custom MG6pro Ear Monitor offer this sound signature and they were very nice about not ever pushing the custom--as far as they were concerned the Atrios offered an excellent sound.
Now, the senior audio engineer who ran the live County Music Awards told me the same thing, he said:
"If you don't want to go the custom route you can get a set of Atrios. I use them all the time and I'm consistently amazed at how great they sound."
Isn't that nice? It's very nice indeed. But I'm not as nice! I thought to myself, "Well, what's the difference between the two, universal Atrios and custom Ear Monitor?"
Meanwhile, David Gray kindly arranged for a 1 month loan of the new Atrios for me. I can say that they do sound great and that they have the Future Sonics' sound signature. They are great at the $175 that they cost and I think they compete very well with the Monster Turbine pro line. The Atrios have clear, neutral mids with great timbre, the bass has great sub-bass, unlike the mid-bass hump often found, and the treble is non-sibilant and balanced with the mids. They pull off the feat of being clear and natural, yet very engaging. I really enjoyed them and found myself reaching for them often. They are universal fit stage monitors, and they sound like it. Because I'm allergic to hyper-positive reviews, I'll give a few nitpicks (don't overreact to them, though): I found that after burn-in, the bass was a bit forward of the mids sometimes, although it didn't intrude on the mids, they remained clear. The lower treble was sometimes a bit more pronounced than the upper treble (great extension, though, not rolled off), which occasionally led to slightly dark sounding cymbals, depending. Like many universals, the standard tips (bi-flange and foams) could use a bit of help, I'm spoiled by the ton of eartips that come with Monster Turbine Pro line.  
My audiologist had a pair of Atrios himself and, naturally, had gotten the very well designed Future Sonics Softerwear silicone custom tips. He showed me his and those are really well done, better than the 1964 Ears custom tips I have for my Monster Turbine Pro Copper. The Future Sonics Softerwear custom tips fit very well on the nozzle, they fit basically like customs, very securely and (the audiologist said) very comfortably.
Update! I've gotten a pair of Atrios and custom-fit Softerwear sleeves myself! They are very well made and they fit perfectly. It's a great addition that I would recommend to any Atrio owners. Also, check out my comments below on the ttvj slim amp (in the section on amping) as this amp improves the Atrio's sound.
Okay, so that still left me with "Why pay more for MG6pro Ear Monitors?" and Marty Garcia, the owner, and David Gray, the Director of Operations, were being so nice about not wanting to pressure me into things... I finally asked more directly and what Marty told me covered my own findings pretty well:
Atrios versus custom Ear Monitors:
First, to my ears, the MG6pro Ear Monitors really do sound a bit different. Don't get me wrong, it's the same basic sound signature, and, of course, the law of diminishing returns (an earphone that is 5 times the price will not sound 5 times better, though it may indeed sound better). They both have the Future Sonics' house sound. And the senior audio engineer was right, the Atrios are very nice. However, the MG6pro Ear Monitors take eveything the Atrios' do and improve on them, as they should. I would say that there are a few main sonic differences with the MG6pro (other than the comfort and fit that customs bring): The first of these are balance and timbre, which I'll consider together. The MG6pro is even more balanced, the lead singer seems always to be right there, clear with the midrange the heart of the sound (not recessed), cymbals are non-boosted and non-sibilant, yet crisp, clear and right, the bass is even more controlled, detailed and extended. The timbre is perfect everywhere along the frequency range. Of course, detail is better as well. Having said that, you may want a warmer, more fun sound and not need the extra balance, extension and detail that the MG6Pro brings, so the Atrios might be perfect for you in that case.
The second main difference is in that out-of-the-head feeling that music is coming from performers in front of you or around you (and where those performers seem to be in relation to you). The MG6pro has an incredible sense of spaciousness, much better than the universal fit earphones I've heard. Of course, much of this depends on the recording, but these really give that feeling.
2. Monster Turbine Pro Copper  and Monster Miles Davis versus Ear Monitors
I won't say so very much about the MTPC, except that they have extended, slightly edgy treble, fairly balanced maybe slightly recessed mids and pretty darn good bass that is fairly free from a mid-bass hump (at least according to people whose ears I respect and to my ears, too). They are a favorite of mine. After listening to the MG6pro, the mtpcs' sounded a bit piercing in the treble, the mids sounded recessed and not as clear in the mids and lacking in bass extention, detail and control. With most vent settings, the MG6pro actually has less (mid)bass quantity than the coppers (though you could use the larger vent setting to achive similar amounts according to your taste) as the balance definitely better with the non-recessed mids. That's just a quick idea, don't over analyze it! Let's compare the MG6pro to the Miles Davis, which has quite warm, thick, forward mids and a richer bass than the coppers, at least to my ears. The MD's colored sound made single string instruments sound richer, but when I tried them with the massed, chromatic strings of a romantic-era classical symphony (2nd movement of Bruckner's 7th) and the MD's thickness and warmth was too much with the already warm and thick grouped strings. The MG6pro sounds a lot less colored and its natural timbre handles that movement very cleanly and yet conveys the warmth very nicely. The bass has less quantity on many vent settings except perhaps the largest, yet is more controlled, better extended and detailed. The MG6pro make a good step upward from the Monster pro line. I should say that with the MG6pro vents well open, I believe that monster pro earphones will have a bit better isolation with their foam hybrid supertips (I was a fan of the supertips), of course, the sound is another matter...
Amps To Amp or Not To Amp: Well, obviously, if you already have an amp, use it, why not? I would say that of pretty much every universal-fit earphone I've ever heard, such as the FS Atrios and the monster iems mentioned above (and the JH16, Heir Audio 8.A and UE IERM for that matter) and I would say it generally. However, the MG6pro sounds very nice straight out of my old 5.5 gen ipod--the ipod drives the MG6Pro quite well and the sound is excellent. The sound will scale with a reasonable amp, just as you would expect with any other high-end earphone. I have an ibasso T3 and the sound does scale, maybe with a more expensive amp (with attention to making a good earphone-amp match) it would do even better. Update! I've tried the ttvj slim, a portable amp with better extension and clarity than the T3. The TTVJ Slim also has a warm, analogue sound. This amp works very nicely with both the MG6Pro and the universal-fit Atrio. The Atrio in particular has a much bettter balance in the upper mids and lower treble with the ttvj slim versus the ibasso t3--it's much improved! I'm pretty happy with it. Again, if all I had was an ipod and MG6Pro, it would be no problem. The MG6pro does well with low-volume listening as well.
Archival Recordings: I have a few of these and the MG6pro handles them very, very well. It's a strength of the natural and balanced sound signature. Of course, modern, high-quality recordings sound fantastic, but if you have a lot of old recordings, the MG6pro will handle them excellently.
Burn-in:  Thanks to me screwing up and Future Sonics having awesome customer service, I had a rare chance to compare directly two sets of MG6Pro, one new, one with several weeks of use. I don't want to debate the idea of burn-in (which is the notion that the sound of a dynamic driver earphone will chang slightly as the diaphragm which produces the sound loosens up with a number of hours' use), however, here I can compare a new driver with one that has some use as let people know if the MG6Pro's sound changes over time. Ready? Well, it does! I don't want to exaggerate the difference, but it is there. Rather like a new pair of shoes versus one you've worn for a few weeks, there is a noticeable improvement, but the two pairs are still the same model of shoe. I would say that the set of MG6Pro that has 100 hours playtime there is a noticeable improvement as the diaphragm frees up, the sound is more open, with better extension above and below, as well as a more balanced, vivid and clear sound. The bass is deepened and sounds more richly voluminous in the bass, the mids have a bit more warmth, the treble has brightened. The overall effect is a more lively sound. People should definitely allow their MG6Pro to burn-in, whether by just enjoying the music, or by setting them aside to play a varied playlist at a reasonably loud volume for maybe 100 hours or so.
Upgrade custom cables (pure silver): Well, do expensive custom cables make a difference? Because supposedly pure silver cables from Whiplash Audio have turned green (almost certainly due to copper oxidation), I didn't trust the standard brands and instead asked a head-fi'er to make me a cable that I could be sure was really pure silver. Having about 200 hours on the silver cable and comparing it with the stock westone ES cable, I think there is a difference, though I will try not to exaggerate it. First, the stock cable is a lot more coil-able and easy to store and wear, while the homebrew silver is stiffer, but quite well-made. Now for the sound, with the pure silver, it is a noticeable difference that grows on you with time, I've found. The silver is audibly more detailed. The treble seems brighter perhaps because it is clearer and more spacious. The bass more defined and extension is improved. The stock (copper) cable is warmer, smoother, more blended by contrast, with a bit more punch and the less bright treble means it's a little less sharp on some recordings. It's a different emphasis and I think the silver cables are a definite upgrade, but it's up to each person whether it's worth it for them. I'll be doing a longer review and taking quite a bit more time to audition a professional silver cable from Amp City in the future--I'll link to it here when it's ready. I look forward to hearing the differences!
Update: Here's the silver cable review:
Feb 16, 2011 at 10:45 PM Post #9 of 1,181


Headphoneus Supremus
Jan 25, 2010

A very interesting product. Do FS have demo units of these does anyone know?

You'll want to email David Gray, director of operations at Future Sonics. He's very nice and will answer your questions.
Feb 16, 2011 at 11:45 PM Post #11 of 1,181


Headphoneus Supremus
Oct 22, 2008
It looks like they use the same kind of pin connection that Westone, JHA, etc uses.
Nice review as well. It was quite informative although I may be done with customs for a while. There's not that much information here on the FS customs so nice to have this one.
Feb 17, 2011 at 8:47 AM Post #13 of 1,181


Headphoneus Supremus
Jan 25, 2010
Feb 17, 2011 at 8:48 AM Post #14 of 1,181


Headphoneus Supremus
Jan 25, 2010
Feb 17, 2011 at 10:57 AM Post #15 of 1,181


500+ Head-Fier
Sep 26, 2010
WOW thorough review, I'm gonna have to dedicate some time to read this later this evening 


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