The Next TIA wave!
PROS: more affordable TIA/APEX tech, U12t being a noticeable upgrade from U12, Trio being an impressive alternative to Fourte, interchangeable APEX modules (U12t/A12t), premium cable and accessories.
CONS: still a premium price, Trio is universal only.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
Right before RMAF’17 show, 64 Audio posted a tease of two new iems, labeled as Sample X and Sample Y. One (Y) had a close resemblance to Fourte shell with no visible APEX module and the other one (X) had a more “traditional” shell with interchangeable APEX modules. During the show, visitors were encouraged to listen and to guess the driver config of these new 64 Audio iems, and afterwards when the veil was lifted – we learned about U12 TIA (U12t) and TIA Trio (Trio) upcoming new IEM models.
Ever since introduction and release of U18 Tzar and TIA Fourte, 64 Audio has been flooded with requests to implement TIA tech in their other custom and universal models, and U12t (including A12t) and Trio is the answer. I received both Sample X and Y units for a sound evaluation and comparison, and was also sent first production pictures, featured in this review. Hopefully, when production versions become available, I will update my review with final pictures. Since the samples I received have the final sound tuning, that section of the review will remain unchanged. Also, I would like to mention this review going to be a little different, with more focus on the sound analysis and comparison within 64 Audio family, along with a number of DAPs and cable pair ups.
*** Update: the review has been updated with pictures of the production U12t and Trio units.
Both U12t and Trio have the same premium packaging as U18 and Fourte, and offer an identical unboxing experience. The only difference is corresponding U12t/Trio cover artwork, and all new details on the back about each design.
Both U12t and Trio arrived with accessories similar to flagship U18 and Fourte models. That included their popular Custom Case with cleaning tool, shirt clip, and a small dehumidifier. Furthermore, U12t and A12t will include both M15 and M20 APEX modules.
Along with that, you will also find a new Premium Cable and a set of new TrueFidelity foam eartips. I originally received TrueFidelity (S/M/L) eartips for testing separately, and used it for U12t and Trio sound evaluation in this review. TrueFidelity foams are not like your typical Comply tips, being softer and more comfortable. But the most important, they are relatively transparent when it comes to the sound. I usually find Comply tips to boost the bass and to attenuate the upper frequencies. Here, the new foam tips performed like my regular silicone tips, providing excellent isolation and comfort while keeping the sound transparent, only taking a little edge off the treble.
The new premium cable features ultra-low resistance silver-plated oxygen free copper inner-twisted 4 conductors. Headphone plug is gold-plated 3.5mm TRS oyaide connector with a black housing. Y-splitter is small, rounded, plastic, with 64 Audio logo, and chin-slider is also small, black, plastic. There is a memory wire surrounded by a heat-shrink tube. The actual 2pin connector now has a new angled housing mold for a more natural wire bend of memory-wire section of the cable.
64 Audio also offers an optional Premium cable which has the same wires but could be configured with either 2.5mm balanced or 4.4mm balanced connectors
I always try to be clear: don’t expect a cable to drastically transform the sound like an EQ adjustment. With different pair ups, including a source, a cable, and earphones/headphones – you can refine the sound, from a subtle to a more noticeable level. You already invested into a pricey IEM and in case of Trio and U12t you’re getting a premium stock SPC cable. Do you have to spend hundreds of dollars more to refine the sound? It’s not a necessity, and I used the original 64 Audio SPC cable included with Fourte/U18 for my sound analysis in this review. But as long as you have realistic expectations about diminishing returns, the aftermarket cables below can give you various degrees of refinement to take these IEMs to the next level, as I hear it.
U12t – cable comparison.
SPC to Ares II – soundstage is a little deeper, lower mids are more neutral, and overall tonality is a touch brighter and even more revealing. One thing I did notice, sound has more transparency.
SPC to Lionheart – both, soundstage width and depth are improved. Bass sounds tighter, more articulate, mids are a little leaner and more forward, especially when it comes to vocals. Also, I hear more sparkle in treble.
SPC to Ref8 – both width and depth of soundstage are improved. Very similar improvement as I’m hearing it with Lionheart, bass it tight but I find Lionheart to be a little tighter with a touch shorter decay. Both have a leaner mids and more revealing forward upper mids. Both add more sparkle and more definition to treble, though Ref8 has a little more treble crunch.
SPC to TWau – adds more depth to the soundstage. I also hear a little more rumble in sub-bass, and a tighter mid-bass with more control. Unlike other cables where mids sounds a bit leaner, TWau makes mids more revealing, more detailed, while keeping the original neutral body of the sound. Treble is well defined and airy, with a touch more sparkle but not as much as some other cables.
SPC to 1960-4w – soundstage expands in every direction, typical of this cable. I’m hearing more sub-bass rumble with a nice texture, mid-bass is tighter and faster, lower mids are still neutral, not leaner, but upper mids scale up in transparency, resolution, and retrieval of details. Treble is airy, with a nice crunch, not too much over the top.
SPC to Truth Cu – widens the soundstage, tightens the sound, and I noticed a little blacker background which results in a sharper transient of note on/off. Not a drastic change, but a nice refinement.
SPC to Horus – widens the soundstage and improves depth as well, tightens the sound, blackens the background which results in a sharper transient of note on/off. Sound is a little more revealing with extra level of micro-details retrieval, including improved layering.
Trio – cable comparison.
SPC to Ares II – more soundstage depth. I hear a little more sub-bass rumble, and upper mids pushed a touch back, perhaps as part of soundstage perception depth. Bass is a little tighter but overall not as much difference.
SPC to Lionheart – more soundstage depth and width. Better defined sub-bass rumble with a higher quantity and faster/tighter mid-bass. Lower mids retain their body, upper mids are as micro- detailed and more revealing without sounding thin. Treble has a little more airiness and sparkle.
SPC to Ref8 – soundstage has more depth. I hear a boost in sub-bass, more rumble, while mid-bass is very similar, not too fast or too tight. Lower mids are neutral with nice body, and upper mids are a little smoother and pushed back a bit. Treble is crisp and well defined, but overall upper frequencies are a touch smoother.
SPC to TWau – soundstage is a little deeper. I hear sub-bass being cleaner, still the same amount of rumble but it sounds more controlled. Mid-bass is similar, the same decay speed, keeping bass more analog and not as tight. Lower mids have a decent body, making sound more natural, and upper mids while micro-detailed, a little smoother and more natural in comparison. Treble has moderate amount of sparkle and airiness, but well controlled and not too crisp. Really like this pair up.
SPC to 1960-4w – soundstage is wider/deeper. Bass has a cleaner sub-bass rumble, and a similar more analog mid-bass punch (not too tight). Lower mids retain their body and upper mids are more revealing and more transparent, a little brighter. The same with a treble, a little brighter and crisper in comparison.
SPC to Truth SPC – widens the soundstage, tightens the sound, and I noticed a little blacker background which results in a sharper transient of note on/off. Not a drastic change, but a nice refinement. Here, in this pair up I prefer Truth SPC over Truth Cu because Cu makes upper frequencies brighter and splashier, while SPC kept it a little smoother in comparison.
SPC to Horus – widens the soundstage, tightens the bass, especially noticeable with a bit shorter decay, blackens the background which results in a sharper transient of note on/off. Sound is a little more revealing with extra level of micro-detail retrieval, and improved layering. Also, I hear more airiness and better control of treble.
U12t, and its custom A12t version, is suppose to be TIA version of the original U12 model. The new driver configuration will be as following: 4xBA lows, 6xBA mids, 1xBA high-mid, and 1x TIA high. This model will have TIA single bore design nozzle and replaceable APEX modules where both M15 and M20 will be included.
Trio is based on Fourte, scaled down to 3-way hybrid design with 1x Dynamic Driver mid-low, 1xBA high-mid and 1x TIA high. The shell has a familiar TIA single bore design nozzle, and also two vents in the shell. Identical to Fourte, you can see a larger hole drilled at the bottom edge of the shell facing forward so it’s not blocked by your ear – this is dynamic driver vent. There is another smaller pinhole vent, on the back, which is a part of internal APEX module corresponding to M15.
Both have a similar shape of the shell and an overall size found in corresponding U18 and Fourte pairs, machined out of a solid piece of aluminum. Those are slick and durable anodized aluminum shells with rounded corners and a smooth finish. The shells have a dark metallic finish on the inside and a brushed aluminum finish on the outside with a slightly different faceplate inlay. Also, U12t faceplate is more silver around the edges, while Trio has a different gunmetal shade.