With the ever increasing list of In Ear Monitor manufacturers, we also see a long list of monitors in the same price range and with a similar amount of drivers around. The driver wars are long over now, and there are actually a lot of flagships out there using only a hand-full of them. Even the Tia Fourté by 64 Audio themselves only features four drivers per side. Mentioned prices are in US Dollars and for custom built versions, except for the Fourté, which is only available as universal fit.
The Kaiser is the brighter of the two. It concentrates more on upper midrange and treble. Bass on the Encore is lighter and does not possess the powerful punch the A12t brings in. The A12t’s low ends also show more resolution, it’s sub-bass is tighter and harder hitting. 12t’s midrange is smoother and more emotional with more body. The Noble goes for clarity and details, while the 64 is warmer. You’ll be able to enjoy your music easier with the musical tuning of the A12t.
Sound stage dimensions are about the same, though I’d say the 12 has more depth than the Encore and the Noble might be a tick wider. We’re not talking miles here though.
Noble Audio – Katana (9BA, 2099$)
Katana has a more neutral tuning with looser bass. The A12t is more extended on both ends, has more punch down low and definitely more bass-resolution.A12t’s bass is faster, more in control and has more body. Mids are smoother on the 64, Katana’s are more neutral and dryer. Voices are more three-dimensional with the 12t. The 64 has more bodied mids. Katana goes for high precision and has a more forward upper midrange. Treble of Katana is tuned with slight warmth, while in contrast the 12t’s is more neutral with good clarity and crispness.
AAW – W900 (1DD/8BA, ~2100$)
The W900 is AdvancedAcoustik Werkes hybrid flagship monitor. I saw that they have introduced an updated version of it at CanJam Singapore. This one is of course the first generation.
The A12t to me sounds more enjoyable with a softer and less aggressive treble. The AAW’s bass might be arier and more organic, but the resolution and drive of the A12t can’t be touched. 64 Audio’s bass is more in control and better separated from lower mids. Midrange is more natural on the A12t with nicer body. Both have an exceptional sound stage, but to me the AAW goes wider.
JH Audio – Layla (12BA, 2725$)
Layla is also a twelve BA per side monitor, though in a 3×4 configuration. Layla does reach deeper, but has a much softer bass and sub-bass compared to the A12t. The 64 is more resolved and accurate with harder punch and rumble. I find Layla to be fuller and thicker, but the A12t more transparent, better layered and with higher separation. Layla is more laid back in treble, less resolving and darker tuned. The A12t is more extended in highs, crisper and more precise to my ears. Mids are smooth on both, but Layla has a darker lower midrange. Vocals are excellent on both. Though both monitors are very enjoyable and fun, I find Layla to be more to kick back and sink in, while the A12t keeps wowing me more.
64 Audio – A18t (18BA, 2999$)
Revamped former flagship agains current flagship. That’ll be interesting. I’m comparing both with M20 module here. There are a few differences between the two. The A18t has a more elevated upper midrange and treble presence. Its resolution and transparency is coming out on top when comparing it to the 12t. The A12t has a more pumping low end response, 18t’s mid-bass is more forward with bigger body. The midrange of A12t is smoother and more relaxed. The A18t reveals details with surgical precision and insane accuracy, here the 12t falls short. Not by a big margin though. Mids appear more recessed on the A18t than on the 12t. The 18 creates a more holographic sound stage that goes far out of your head. It goes a good bit wider than the 12t’s. The precision of the A18t is something truly astonishing. Even small tones in the back of a recording are tickled out with ease. The A12t is able to do that too, but not as masterful as the A18t.
64 Audio – Tia Fourté (1DD/3BA, 3599$)
The bass presentation on both aren’t too far apart in my opinion. The Fourté has a similarly resolved and dynamic low end, but to me is airier and more realistic especially when listening to acoustical recordings. The midrange of the Fourté is evenly smooth and transparent. It creates a bigger soundstage with incredible dimensions. The treble is definitely more forward and crisper on Fourté. High notes can be too forward for some people, and I know some prefer the richer and more laid back tuned A18t over Fourté. That’s the thing about preferences, everyone’s got their own. A12t’s high notes are more neutral and less sharp. The sound stage of Fourté is again wider and deeper, with higher layering abilities. Both have easy imaging with pin point accuracy.
The A12t is perfectly finished, with one of the most gorgeous and simplistic designs in my inventory. Peeking at the TIA high drivers through the transparent acrylic has become kind of an obsession of mine when I don’t have the A12t in my ears. The interchangeable module system works really well and gives you the option to tune the sound to your preference. I found the M20 module better fitting for my taste.
64 Audio has made quite an impact on my listening experiences. The A12t has won me over with a few short sessions and has made it quick on my shortlist of top monitors. With its thunderous bass, smooth and emotional mids and the superb TIA extension the A12t convinces me on all fronts. Together with the high resolution, big sound stage and great transparency the A12t puts a wide smile on my face when listening to my favourite albums.
I fully recommend the A12t to anyone who’s looking for a powerful and smooth monitor that excels on technicalities and can be hooked up to virtually any source with its linear impedance behaviour. It certainly sets the bar high for its competition to take the crown as CIEM of the year. Exciting times ahead.
On to the list of recommended Custom In Ear Monitors you go.
As promised here are the measurements from 64 Audio. Special thanks to Vitaliy for providing them!
The first picture shows the Tia Trió’s impedance curve without active LID technology:
This is the Trió with LID: