Review: 64 Audio A18 t – 18 BA Orchestra!

 

Sound

Now it’s getting interesting, many things have been said about the A18t and so far, it mostly was praises. Everyone expects from a flagship monitor a stellar performance, especially if it comes with the price tag the A18t goes for. The A18 Tzar actually offers two different signatures, depending on the module you have installed in your monitor. The following impressions are based on the M20 module, as it comes pre-installed, a comparison to the M15 is located at the end of this chapter.

The A18t at first impresses with its mighty sound stage that stretches far into all directions. A lot of out of your head experiences are what you will get with the Tzar. The 64 Audio strikes with its balance and coherence. Instruments are carefully placed in the constructed room with the right amount of air between them to easily separate them from each other. It extends very well into both ends of the spectrum, and sports incredible layering and imaging. I came across many in ear monitors in my past, and a lot of them are constructing big sound stages, but a good number of them also forget that it isn’t all about size, it’s also how you render in depth. The resolution, and especially how precise you can recreate every note in the background. This is something the A18t has masterfully done. Every little detail is clear and clean, it doesn’t matter if it’s the voices in the center or a small cymbal in the back. The entire frequency range has a touch of harmony and incredible clarity over it. The A18t can be considered as a forgiving monitor that manages every genre and bad recording well.

64 Audio has dedicated eight balanced armature drivers just for low-end reproduction. Bass is powerful and fast with beautiful texture and impact. It has this sort of liquidity to it that makes you want more. Lows reach far down with very nice sub-bass rumble. On certain tracks you can hear that the dynamics are achieved on a very high level. Thankfully lows are also staying in their own territory and don’t blend into lower mids and don’t overshadow some of the mid clarity.

Speaking of which, with again eight drivers for midrange and one additional BA for upper mids, 64 doesn’t joke around. Mids have great body with excellent weight in tone. Their presentation is smooth and well textured with superior layering and great richness in their upper segment. Every note has an organic and musical touch to it, with life-like character and weight. Instruments and voices sound just right, as they should.

Now off to treble. Think about it again, there is only one TIA driver taking care of all that high notes, this becomes even more impressive when you hear the A18t’s treble. It is one of the, if not the most extended I’ve heard. It is incredibly airy and rich. High notes shimmer greatly but aren’t exactly in-your-face bright. Some monitors fail at this miserably, the 64 doesn’t. Treble is soft, crisp and articulate. You have to hear it to believe how much it stands out from the rest. I like my treble a little more forward with a hint of warmth in its upper regions.

Change the supplied M20 APEX module to the M15 counterpart and you’re in for a treat if you’re looking for some rich treble. I didn’t expect the change to be that big to be honest. Bass weight and body lean more towards a lighter presentation with a softer hit. Mids are more in line with the rest on M15. The biggest change for me though was the richness and energy of the high notes. Treble got to a level of richness I haven’t heard before, which has put a wide grin on my face. People on the subway at 6 AM in Vienna don’t seem to be overly thrilled by happy people though. The M15 Tzar is also less forgiving of poorer records. Bass still has good body and texture, but I was missing some of the punch and impact of the M20 module on certain tracks, my ideal would be a combination of both modules: the dynamics and body of M20 with the awesome treble richness and energy of M15.

Page four is all about aftermarket cables and their effects on A18 Tzar as well as good sources to pair it with!

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A daytime code monkey with a passion for audio and his kids, Linus tends to look at gear with a technical approach, trying to understand why certain things sound the way they do. When there is no music around, Linus goes the extra mile and annoys the hell out of his colleagues with low level beatboxing.

    12 Comments

    • Reply December 14, 2017

      Thurein

      Hi Linus,

      Did you managed to compare for JH Layla and also use WM1Z DAP?
      I am curious to read for your findings. 🙂
      Thanks.

      Thurein

      • Reply December 14, 2017

        Linus

        Hi Thurein,
        I don’t have a Layla yet to compare, sorry. I also don’t have the WM 1Z. Would love to compare, but for now it’s impossible for me…

    • Reply March 3, 2018

      Julian Robasto

      Thanks you for the enjoyable in-depth review, Linus.

      Yet I’m left with one standing question: How effective is the Apex technology? I’m considering either A18t or A12t, partly due to Apex, which purportedly mitigates ear fatigue, protects the eardrum and allows playing a lower volumes. Any substance in those claims?

      Would you spend the extra $1,000 to move up from the A12t to the A18t? I know, it’s very subjective and the rule of diminishing return comes down to bear. Still I’d love your opinion.

      Best wishes!

      • Reply March 4, 2018

        Linus

        Hi Julian,

        thanks for your comment, much appreciated.

        Apex is supposed to prevent ear fatigue and give a healthier listening experience due to removed pneumatic pressure. As for the lower volumes, you have to consider they block out ambient noise by 20 respectively 15 dB. Non-apex iems lower noise by 26db…

        As for A12t to A18t, I can’t say much for now, as my 12’s haven’t arrived yet, but I will make sure to compare these two to each other as well as some other monitors in the upcoming review. That will not see the light for some more weeks though. From what I’ve heard so far, the 12 is noticeably darker, take that with a good grain of salt though, as said I’ve not heard it yet… 🙂

        As always, best is to audition side by side with your own gear and favourite music. You are the only one that can make the final call.

        Hope that helps.

        All the best,
        L

    • Reply April 19, 2018

      MFHRaptor

      Which of the two 64 Audio flagships has a more open sound and greater headroom, A18 Tzar or Tia Fourte?

      • Reply April 19, 2018

        Linus

        Tough question, but I’d say Fourté is a tad ahead.

    • Reply May 8, 2018

      Brian Kang

      Thank you for your review. You have convinced me to buy a pair for myself and they are on the way. How would you compare the leonidas and tmetal for the a18s? Im stuck having to choose between them. Might even consider going for a mix of leonidas and mars or tmetal and tricopper to tame the highs.(heard the highs might get fatiguing with these cables)

      • Reply September 28, 2018

        Linus

        Hi Brian,

        sorry, it seems I have overlooked your post. My deepest apologies for the late reply.

        In the end that heavily depends on how well you’re managing treble. In the recent past I have been enjoying the Leonidas x A18t pairing a lot. Especially with the M20 module, which is less treble forward.

        Hope you like the A18t as much as I do. They’re special.

    • Reply January 28, 2019

      Jimmy

      Hi Linus, great write up on the aftermarket cabling! How does the Leonidas II you more recently reviewed compare to the PlusSound EXO T-Metal and LabKable Samurai III when used with 64Audio A18t CIEM?

      My preferred sound signature:
      -clear vocals with enough weight to bring out the emotions
      -vocals slightly forward like my custom JH Angie but more holographic
      -HD kind of clarity n details retrieval without sounding dry and causing ear fatigue e.g. the universal Beyerdynamic Xelento but with just the right amount of bass n rumble (Xelento can be a lil bit too bassy)
      -spacious and holographic soundstage which is not just wide but also deep

      Can you please help me pick one out of the 3 cables for my A18t which is still in production? I am not able to demo any of them so I can only purchase based on what I read. I’ll be pairing with my Hiby R3 and looking to upgrade to Astell & Kern SR15 A&Norma in the near future.

    • Reply March 14, 2019

      Andre

      Hello Linus, thanks for the great reviews for the A12t and the A18t.

      I had the Campfire Andromeda and loved their signature (sparkle without ever hitting siblant levels and with large head-stage for PC games). But, I wanted to try something higher in tier so I decided to upgrade to the U12t and sold the Andromeda.

      The U12t fills in the lack of sub-bass which the Andromeda lacked for me but it feels a little more muddy when it comes to positional tracking in games. (maybe because it is not as airy and focuses a lot on the lower frequencies) However, for music and movies they are great with their strong bass which I thoroughly enjoy. I currently run them as my daily drivers.

      I’ve heard mixed opinions on people saying they don’t think the 1k upgrade from the u12t to the u18t would be worth it. (I know diminishing returns exist in this hobby)
      Some say the u18t are too analytical/revealing and can ruin certain music which are poorly mixed.
      Some people even said they can equalize the u12t to make it more towards the u18t’s signature.

      I was wondering if going from the u12t to the u18t would be a worthwhile upgrade for me? Would switching from the u12t to the u18t be a good idea if I were to use them as daily drivers?
      I know both IEMS have different signatures and the u18t is more neutral but seeing as I enjoyed the Andromeda I don’t know if this would be a problem.

      I know the best way to determine this is to try them. So I am currently on a waiting list on the loaner program from 64 audio to get a chance to demo the u18t when they are available.

      Thanks again,
      Andre

      • Reply March 14, 2019

        Linus

        Hi Andre,
        thanks a lot for stopping by and leaving a comment.

        If the upgrade would be ideal for you, I can’t say, as that’s your decision in the end. The 18 definitely is more precise and clean than the 12t, but for my personal enjoyment I pick the 12 over the 18. The A18 though is more capable on a technical level.

        If you’re missing the air and clean signature of Andromeda, the 18t would definitely fill that void. It’s a mighty IEM that can really wow me. But as you said, it’s 1000$ more and that’s a lot.

        Cool, you already requested a demo from 64. Please let me know how you like them. It’s always interesting to see what other people think. 🙂

        Cheers

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