64 Audio U18t (U18 Tzar) - Universal IEM - Official Thread

Has anyone seen Crinacle’s thread over on his reddit site. In it there’s an interesting article regarding plugin filters for the 64 Audio lineup (and others) similar to the APEX filters. DEC is the company here’s a link image https://cymbacavum.com/

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Hi all, I shall post my review of the 64 Audio U18t in the next week. I am by no means a professional reviewer but I shall try my best.

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Looking forward to seeing it Paul! Especially now that you’ve had the U18t for quite some time you should be able to give some great insights on its strengths and weaknesses.

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The better so, prfallon60 :smiley:,
and, if am allowed to share my views on this,
I definitely prefer non-professional reviewers :smiley: to those so-called “professional” ones who need to get money from their reviews for their living, e.g. get paid by the company (whose items they are reviewing, the same happens also with adds the companies pay to magazines and sites) or donated a lot of super-expensive stuff (later resold and maybe without having to declare the money as income), so, whatever they say, most of them can’t be unbiased compared to someone who worked hard to purchase the expensive stuff. And indeed their reviews are too long, with too many vague wordings, flashy photos and way too positive (The only exception I am aware of was Tyll Hertsen). But it is good that we can bypass these corrupted business models marring the audio world, because two very important sites were launched:

Take your time, enjoy your U18t, and only if you have time (family first!), treat us with your review, at which I am looking forwards to reading. In any case I find Torq’s assessments above are already excellent :smiley:.

Have a nice weekend,
bidn

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Thanks Taron. I shall do my best.

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Thanks Bidn for your support.

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2 posts were merged into an existing topic: The Objective, Subjective & Dejected Thread

**The 64 AudioU18t Iem review written by Paul Fallon (@prfallon69)


Introduction

The U18t’s have been around a little over 2 years. I have owned my pair since the end of January and these were purchased from Headphones.com with the fantastic Taron Lissimore on hand with purchase advice. I cant thank him enough for his help and advice. The iems were a 50th birthday present.

The U18t’s themselves are made by 64 Audio a boutique iem company in Vancouver, WA. The U18t comes with 18 drivers in each side. With 8 low, 8 mid, 1 mile-high Balanced Armature drivers and 1 tia high. Also of note is the incorporation of 64 Audios Apex (Air Pressure Exchange) Modules. The modules come in two sizes one pair of M15 modules and one pair of M20 modules. As well as claiming to cut down listener fatigue they also change the sound characteristics to a certain degree. The M20 module having slightly fuller bass. The M15 module a slightly more open sound and less bass. I won’t go into the science behind both the Apex and Tia technology as this has been done far better than me on lots of review and discussions. I will direct you to an explanation by Ian Dunmore @Torq in his excellent 64 Audio tia Fourté review on Headphones.com https://www.headphone.com/blogs/news/64-audio-tia-fourte-flagship-hybrid-iem-review

Further information can also be found on 64 Audios website, 64audio.com.

Unfortunately I don’t own any measurement equipment so I will be unable to post measurements. If you would like to view measurements then they can be found on the internet on enthusiasts sites. A great site for iems in general is the one run by Crinacle.

Review Equipment and Material

For source I have kept it simple and I shall be using my Pioneer XDP-300r. This is my primary Dap and what I use all the time to listen to my music. I primarily use it in 2.5mm balanced mode. As well as a collection of Flacs, I use Spotify premium as my main source of music both on and offline. All music is downloaded in the very high quality setting.

For comparison I will use my OG Andromeda.


SPECIFICATIONS

Driver Type/Count Eighteen precision balanced armature drivers
Driver Configuration 1 tia high, 1 high-mid, 8 mid, 8 low
Frequency Response 10Hz – 20kHz
Sensitivity 111 dB/mW @ 1kHz
Impedance 9Ω @ 1kHz
Crossover Integrated 4-way passive crossover
Isolation -20dB w/ m20 module, -15dB w/ m15 module


Build

The U18t is an all-metal affair made from Aluminium. It’s what I would call a dark red colour with a pattinated copper inlay on the faceplate. The word tia is etched one and the number 64 on the other one.

Perhaps with 18 drivers packed into each iem it’s not surprising that the feels larger than my Campfire Andromeda. Though to be honest it’s not what I would call a massive iem. The bore size measures 4mm in diameter and is of average length. So insertion depth is going to be ok. The U18t doesn’t fit into my ear as snugly as the Andromeda but it’s still a comfortable iem to wear

Package and Accessories


The box you get the with your iems and accessories is quite nice. But not outstanding considering the price of them. It’s a nice looking package with plenty of info on the box and a nice picture of the iems on the front. Inside you get a card with 3 sets of foam tips in S/M/L sizes. As well as 3 sets of silicone tips in S/M/L sizes too. The iems come recessed in a hard foam insert which does a good job of keeping them safe. The supplied cable has a standard TRS plug which is right angled. Its sturdy and heavy too. Perhaps a little too much so. On the other end its a 2-pin termination which is angled which is a nice touch. The cable itself feels well made and is quite thin but not overly so. One thing I have noticed however is its tendency to tangle. It’s not the worst offend cable I’ve come across but it does tangle sometimes. Otherwise it’s a decent cable. But again for the price of the iems I feel a better cable could have been provided.

The next thing is the iem storage box. It’s a hard plastic affair which is well made and feels sturdy. Inside is a small tin of dessicant a cleaning tool and the other set of Apex Modules. Theres a nice split compartment with a rubber floor to store your iem separately. The rubber base ensures no scratches and with the iems being in their own separate little compartment they aren’t going to bang together. There’s also a spool to wrap your cable round aswell. Overall it’s a nice little iem storage case.

A little word about the tips. The supplied foam tips were what I used as I usually use foam tips. That’s my preference. These tip were fine and caused me no issues.
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Sound

Initial Impressions

Upon hearing my new iems for the first time I was underwhelmed. Having come from my Andromedas with their exciting sparkly highs. The U18t has a reference very neutral tuning which unless your prepared for it can and will sound boring to some. Theres only a very slight elevation in the lows and highs. Delve deeper though and give it a good 25 mins for your ears to adjust and you can pick out what this iem is all about. Detail, imaging and resolution.

I always EQ my headphones/iems, not to a fancy degree as I mostly use Spotify. Just lift the mids and treble a tickle and after 2 mins of tweaking and wow. It’s a different iem. It has become a far more engaging affair. Perhaps I am not a neutral person. It is by no means elevated, indeed the Spotify EQ doesn’t change much at all, maybe give it that bit of sparkle I craved.

Theres no denying that the U18t is a very accomplished iem with pretty much the most detail and resolution I have personally heard. Theres a very good 3d like soundstage that’s wide but doesn’t have great depth or height. Clarity is fantastic and everything sounds very cohesive with the four way crossover doing a sterling job. I must just clarify that I have used the M15 module as I think that this enhances the highs a little and gives it a little extra clarity and resolution. With the M20 module it had a little too much bass for me though it could be easily EQ’d to taste. This iem equalizes very well.

A few more hours listening and it becomes apparet that it’s the upper mids and treble that are really special. It doesn’t have that great sparkle that the Andromeda does but it comes close. The U18t trounces the Andromeda in every other aspect. Bass is tighter and more detailed and has more impact. The mids have much better detail and clarity. The highs are hyper detailed and not at all sibilant.

Signature and Tonality

The U18t has a neutral tuning. The bass is ever so slightly raised as is the treble which gives it a very shallow v shaped look. But upon listening and with no EQ it’s pretty neutral. The bass is tight and fast and goes low. It has good impact. But you won’t rattle your ears with it. The upper mids and treble feel exciting and have great speed. This is where this iem excels. Tonality is neutral and perhaps not as accurate as some other TOTL iems. Though this doesn’t detract it from being exceptional IMHO. Acoustic guitars (my favourite instrument) sound delicious. It’s a real pleasure to hear acoustic music with the U18t.

Detail and Resolution

This is this iems strongpoint. Detail across all frequencies is superb as is resolution. It is a very precise iem in that it has clean edges to all the notes. Nothing seems to be muddied or let’s say out of focus. It can be equalised to sound analytical if that’s what your after but tread carefully and it will furnish you with all the detail and resolution you could ask for. Every sound is clear and never becomes congested. If critical listening is your thing then these will supply you with what you crave. Don’t get me wrong it’s not always about detail and resolution these can do fun too.

The XDP-300r uses a Sabre Ess chipset and with it can make things dry and analytical. Though this isn’t the case with the U18t.

Bass

The bass is really quite good for a Ba driven iem. It extends low with great note decay. It’s also quick and energetic as is the Ba trait. The tone of the bass is excellent. Theres plenty power but you wont get the slam or rumble of a bass heavy dynamic driver. There is no bleed of the bass frequencies into the mids at all. Everything remains clean and detailed.

The Andromeda in comparison is very source dependant and its bass can go from a bloomy mess to bass light if not given the correct impedance. However, once its driven correctly the Andromeda can have very good Ba bass. But it just lacks the clarity and overall detail that the U18t offers.

Mids

The mids sound ever so slightly recessed. But I am talking very small amounts. Music and voices are just a tiny amount behind instruments. But I find it so small a margin as to not be troublesome. To me personally that is. Female voices sound really good here and are a pleasure to listen to. Male voices are equally as good though perhaps lack a little heft when compared to some thicker sounding mids.

The lower-mids show no bass bleed. The mids remain of a neutral nature with great clarity, detail and resolution. Even with a little Eq they remain very coherent and engaging. It’s the upper-mids and treble that shine though. I has a good amount of sparkle and gives out great detail to everything. It may not have the thick sounding mids of some differently tuned iems but they aren’t cold or analytical either. Which is a great feat considering the amount of detail and resolution that’s been imparted here.

In comparison the Andromeda although having detailed mids of their own they can’t compete with the levels of detail and clarity handed out here.

Treble

The treble of the U18t has outstanding resolution with excellent treble extension. Sound is precise, fast and detailed. I haven’t detected any real silbilance unless it’s already present in the song. I am though very tolerant of bright sounding headphones. But I wouldn’t class the U18t as overly bright. The treble doesn’t sound analytical but is full of razor sharp detail. It’s a fine balancing act. Which the U18t pulls off expertly. Theres also a good amount of air in the treble giving it an open airy feel to its sound. I have listened over extended periods and personally don’t find it fatiguing. Again I have to reiterate as I have done throughout that this iem is all about the clarity and detail. And the very well tuned treble only adds this perception.

Separation, sound and stage

Soundstage on the U18t is very wide. The depth and height of the soundstage are only average though. This doesn’t detract from the sense of space and air you get though. These iems give a great sense of width and you don’t feel like you are missing out too much in any way to full size cans. Layering is also good though not its selling point. However, performers can clearly be picked out and are each given a good sense of space when performing. Imaging is great and with its sense of openness gives you an uncluttered precise soundstage.

Transients and Dynamics

With both Macro and Micro-dynamics being excellent the sense of fine detail and speed is superb. Instruments can be picked apart. Sounds can be analyzed. It’s very pleasing to be able to hear the breath of a singer or the individual pluck of a string. It brings another dimension to music when you hear this level of detail. With transient response this good it’s easier to pick out the nuances of the music. I can literally hear the guitarist breathe as they wait to perform in some recordings. You can hear and feel the anticipation.

OG Andromeda. A quick comparison

Having owned the Og Andromeda for a little over 18 months prior to my purchase of the U18t I thought I would give a quick comparison to it.

The Andromeda is a 5 Ba affair from Campfire Audio. I was immediately wowed with theis iem. It’s got great sparkly highs with great levels of detail and resolution. It’s just what I wanted.

The one factor you’ve got to account for though is the very picky nature it with regards to source. It needs an IO of around 2 ohms any lower and the bass becomes a mess. It can also be very prone to hiss. Much more so than most other iems.

The bass is good which is well controlled and tight. Being Ba bass it doesntbcompete with DD bass but it’s no slouch. It has a good level of detail in the bass and overall I have no complaints.

The mids on the Andromeda again offer good levels of detail and resolution with a nice sparkle in the upper-mids lower treble. Voices both male and female are great. It’s a quite neutral tuning.

The treble has great extension and is the highlight of the package. A great sense of air with a good soundstage. Imaging and separation are very good too.

The Andromeda fits well in the ear, though some have complained with its design and angular edges. Some also feel that’s is a big iem. Though I don’t find this to be a problem.

Overall the Andromeda hasn’t any real weaknesses apart from being very picky with which source it needs pairing with. The tuning is very consumer friendly with the level of detail and resolution offered its proved to be a big hit in the audiophile world.

In comparison with the Andromeda the U18t is levels above the Andromeda in nearly every department. It offers a true upgrade to the Andromeda.

The only caveat is the very hefty price of the U18t. This makes the Andromeda a far more realistic choice for most sane people. With the Andromeda retailing at around $1000 as opposed to the $3000 retail price of the U18t.
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Summary

I have tried to keep my ramblings as objective as I could. But I do let emotion take over sometimes. As you have probably gathered I really love my U18t’s. They have become all that I have wanted in an iem. There are probably other great iems out there that I would be equally enamored with. But alas my funds are exhausted for now.

Initially I did struggle with the neutral nature of these. But once I had tweaked them ever so slightly aswell as getting used to them they just clicked. I wholeheartedly recommend these though there is one thing that stops me from doing so unreservedly. It’s the cost. It’s just really expensive. Is it 3 times better than the Andromeda. No. But it’s an exceptional iem and I am glad I bought it.

Thanks to Headphones.com for my customer experience.

Paul.

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Excellent review Paul! I can tell you put a lot of thought and effort into putting this together. I know from our initial talks that the neutral tuning was a bit of a shock / disappointment. I’m glad they managed to turn around though and be more than you hoped they would be.

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Thank you Taron. I am just glad to have got around to do it. Especially as I told you that I would. I am really enjoying them. As I said some people will struggle with the signature but that’s just the nature of the beast.

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Outstanding review! Well put together and easy to digest! Bravo!

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Thanks Tyler. It’s not to your standards but I have had a go. I appreciate your support.

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I think it was better than a lot of my ramblings on here lol

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Very nice review, Paul. As someone else who can’t measure stuff, I appreciate the careful listening. If price were no object, I’d guess from your review that I’d really really like the U18t’s. I like sound that is boring at first, then shows great detail. Just not an instant sparkle kind of guy. I’d rather have cymbals that sound like cymbals, than a bright crash that later sounds just a bit sandpapery. (Though to be fair, it’s usually the fault of the recording…).

Anyway, I can tell that you put a lot of thought into this. Kudos.

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Thank you David. I really appreciate your comments. As you say it isn’t easy without measurement gear. I don’t review enough stuff to justify getting a measurement rig. And to be honest I would rather just listen to my music than get too far into the measurement game. There are lots of great people on the Headphones.com forum that do a sterling job with their measurement apparatus already.

Whilst listening to my music especially through Spotify I have noticed, especially with the U18t that the quality of the recording is especially important. As good as Spotify is I have come to realise that there are quite a few bad recordings versus my own personal flacs. It must be a nightmare to listen to poor recordings with your Stax. I bet it picks up everything. Perhaps I should give Tidal another shot.

Again thanks for your kind words.

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