1964 Ears V6-S IEM ReviewPosted by Luke Perrie on October 12, 2014 Blog | | No comments
Having recently moved to North Georgia, I have been blessed to have more and more opportunities to lead worship in the Atlanta area. Considering the fact that I would be spending a lot of time with In Ear Monitors (IEM’s) in my ears, about 6 months ago I started my research looking for a new pair of customs.
For the past couple of years I have been wearing a pair of Westone UM 3X’s, and so I have become accustomed to a high quality, triple-driver sound. 3 drivers per ear was really enough for me as a worship leader. I am mainly a vocalist and an acoustic guitarist, so for the most part, my Westone’s provided a clear mid and high range that was satisfactory. Even though the IEM’s I have been wearing on a regular basis were not custom, the triple driver setup provided a well-balanced sound for me week in and week out. They were easy to pop in and out, and the sound isolation was ok for universals. For right around $350, they were a great pair of IEM’s for medium-to-heavy weekly use.
Of course, as I began my search, I started online and did some basic research. Ever since I started wearing IEM’s, as a worship leader, I have always bounced back and forth between popping one IEM out, keeping them both in, etc, etc. I faced the common problem that most people face with IEM isolation: wanting to hear the audience without plugging both ears and having to crank up the ambient mic channel, but also wanting to protect my hearing and enjoy the benefits of the isolation that IEM’s bring. Especially as a worship leader, engagement is huge. In my opinion, it’s often really hard to engage well with both of your ears plugged up. That’s why you see so many worship leaders and front men (those tasked with engaging the crowd) only using 1 side. The issue that you face when you do that is that in order to hear all of your channels in the one ear that is in, you have to crank it up so loud that it becomes dangerous for your hearing in that one ear. Obviously, it’s always much better to keep both ears plugged if possible. Most of the IEM companies are now offering an option called “ambient ports” on their products. I did a lot of research on it, hoping that it would finally solve my problem and allow me to be connected while still plugging both ears, but in the end, decided against it. The main reason? Almost EVERYONE that used them said that it completely cut out the bass frequency, even with the heaviest “filter” allowed. I also thought that this was an insightful write up on the issue from Ultimate Ears.
After asking around and talking to several musicians both in Florida (where I used to live) and Atlanta, I whittled the list of considerations down to basically 3 options:
My goals for my custom IEM’s were to find a set that:
- Fit well and was comfortable for long rehearsals, gigs and services
- Provided a dynamic soundstage with great clarity for each instrument in the mix
- Came highly recommended by other musicians that had actually worn them
- Showed a history of reliability (as this can often be an ongoing issue with IEM’s)
I started out doing a healthy amount of online research looking over written and video reviews (professional and amateur), blogs and other anecdotal information online. Of course, I looked over all of the official website information from each of the companies. Long story short, as I went further and further into my research, 1964 Ears kept coming to the surface. Specifically, that they were the best “value” buy. In the end, I decided take advantage of 1964 Ears’ Demo Program. I really love this program because it allows the musician to get a great idea of the soundstage and sonic balance for the IEM’s without having to buy the equipment. Custom IEM’s are a big investment – one I wanted to be comfortable with and confident in. As a part of the demo program, I paid a $500 security deposit, and they shipped me a demo pair of the V6 model (the V6-S models had a waiting list for months). I demo’d the ears on stage in a worship setting on a Sunday, and was blown away. I think many people would say that 6 drivers is overkill, but for me, it was fantastic, and a night-and-day difference from the 3 driver pair I was used to. I will say, that when I got done with the demo pair on that Sunday, I walked away very impressed, but with one remaining issue. For my personal hearing taste (it’s different for everyone), the high end frequencies were still just a bit too punchy. To me, sonically, they rolled off just a little bit past where they needed to, and I was also left wanting more bass. I spoke with the guys at 1964 about the differences between the V3, V6 and V6-S models. I also used their site to research the sound signature differences between the models. I noticed that the V6-S provided a bit more bass, and a bit less high frequency, which was exactly the adjustment I would have asked for if I could adjust the V6’s. Here is a quick comparison of 1964’s V6 and V6-S models from the 1964 website:
One other specific thing that I appreciated about working with 1964 Ears was their commitment to a high quality product. I ended up using one of their recommended audiologists from the website for my impressions. After they received the first set of impressions from me, they contacted me and let me know that the left impression wasn’t quite deep enough. They were asking for literally an additional few centimeters of material. It was such a minuscule adjustment that the audiologist I was using was kind of upset that it had to be made. 1964 was very insistent that the impressions needed to be long enough to extend past the second bend in the ear canal. This extension is further than most companies will ask for, or be picky about. The audiologist even joked with me that if she went any further with the impression mold, that I would have pretty severe discomfort. In the end, although it was kind of annoying to have to go back to the audiologist again to get one of them re-done, I appreciated the attention to detail that 1964 showed. Below are my specific overview thoughts on the overall fit, balance and sound stage for the V6-S.
I think “wide+” is probably the best word to describe the soundstage with these IEM’s. My old universals provided pretty good sonic quality overall, but the width and depth of the overall soundstage provided by the 1964 IEM’s is fantastic. Instruments are not stacked on top of each other. Correct use of panning creates a ridiculously wide soundstage that gives excellent context for all instruments and voices I’m hearing.
Fit and Isolation
The first time I received my IEM’s in the mail and went to put them in, I had some pretty serious discomfort in my left ear. I had read a lot about how it can take people who aren’t used to customs a while to adjust and get used to the tight fit and seal, but this was beyond what I was comfortable with. I ended up contacting Roman at 1964 and they agreed to make an adjustment for me as a part of the 30 Day Fit Guarantee. The adjustment they made was to reduce the canal tip thickness. I did have to pay for shipping to them, but they paid for the return shipping. The whole process only took about a week before I had them back at my house. The adjustment was perfect, and now the -26dB isolation I get is amazing. I would say that overall, they probably still fit a tiny, tiny bit too tight for my comfort (like for long rehearsals, etc.), but that’s actually a good thing. Roman told me that most people actually complain that the IEM’s are too lose, and the seal isn’t as good.
Clarity and Frequencies
I’ll keep this pretty short and sweet, as I know it can get pretty monotonous. From a clarity perspective, the one comment that I wanted to make is that I very much appreciate the clarity that these V6-S’s give to each instrument in the mix. I have no problem clearly making out each channel, and I very much enjoy the well-defined space that each instrument and voice has in the mix. Frequencies:
Lows – powerful, rich and smooth. For me, they have just the right command and place in the mix. Much more prevalent in the V6-S than in any of the other 1964 models that I have heard. Capable of pounding when called upon.
Mids -all-stars of the overall mix (which I wanted, as a vocalist). Set just a smidge under the subs, which is perfect. Vocals are engaging and lifelike. Pleasure to listen to.
Highs – piercing, yet clear, without being shrill. For my personal taste, I would still like a little less “shrill,” so I usually have tech’s back down the highs for me overall just a tiny bit. It’s not a problem necessarily, just personal taste. Depends on the room I’m in on any given Sunday.
I have had a lot of people ask me about my IEM’s as I’ve been wearing them each week and each time I have been happy to recommend them as a fantastic choice for anyone looking to make an investment in custom In Ear Monitors. Feel free to use the comment area below to ask any questions about my experiences with them.
One of the great things about custom IEM’s is just that…they’re custom! For me, I took a long time and eventually decided that I wanted to put a very special message on mine. I spent a few minutes mocking up some Photoshop looks of my name – Luke Perrie on each IEM. It was in that moment that God reminded me of who I am…and who He Is. This message was meant for one person and one person only…and that was me. Every single time I open my case and put my IEM’s in my ears I see this message…”He must increase…but I must decrease.” John 3:30. Hitting me in the face every time I step on stage as a Worship Leader. This was one of the most important things I did with my customs. At the end of the day, it’s all about Jesus. Even as a worship leader, it’s EXTREMELY easy to get reasons mixed up for why I am on stage in the first place. It’s for people to see Jesus. Not me or my custom IEM’s. May I never forget that the most effective person I can be on stage as a worship leader is to point to Jesus, and hide myself. Even on a big stage with bright, shiny lights…He must increase…I must decrease.