64 Audio needs no introduction, but here’s one anyway. The Vancouver, WA-based company, started by Vitaliy Belonozhko to make custom in-ear monitors for stage musicians, has grown to become one of the largest and most successful of the world’s high-end IEM brands.
Guided by Vitaliy’s engineering prowess, 64 Audio is known for pioneering unique technologies in its IEMs that challenge conventions and set them apart from other brands. These include:
- Apex (Air pressure exchange), the company’s in-ear pneumatic pressure relief system;
- LID (Linear Impedance Design), a way of correcting the non-linear impedance of an IEM’s drivers; and
- Tia (Tubeless In-Ear Audio), an open balanced armature design that sits in a tubeless acoustic chamber to maximise sonic performance.
For the first time ever (that I’m aware of), all four of 64 Audio’s high-end hybrid universal IEMs – Nio, Trió, Fourté and (Fourté) Noir – will be put through their paces and pitted against each other in a shootout of epic proportions. But unlike most shootouts, the goal is not so much to find out which is best, but instead discover what each IEM is best at.
Hopefully this will help anyone interested in these IEMs to choose which one (or more) might appeal to their preferences because, let’s face it – each one is like a supercar in its own right, and while some may be faster, more powerful or more aggressive, whatever your choice, you’re buying at the top end of town.
If you’re wondering why 64 Audio’s other two much-lauded universal IEMs, U12t and U18t, didn’t make the cut, it’s quite simple: they’re not hybrids. That doesn’t mean they aren’t as good or not as proficient as their hybrid siblings, far from it. Rather, I wanted to compare apples with apples, and in my opinion, all-BA designs offer a slightly different type of sound, with its own qualities, that almost makes them a different type of IEM altogether.
Because there’s so much ground to cover – this is essentially four major reviews in one – I’m going to dispense with the ‘small’ stuff, like packaging, accessories, the font used on the box, the tips they come with, the so-so stock cables, and so on, and jump straight into what you’re here to read about: the sound. l just want to briefly mention that I find 64 Audio’s earpiece design very ergonomic, and the shallower fit of the four hybrids – Fourté and Noir in particular – is among the most comfortable of all the IEMs I’ve used and owned.
That’s not to say the other stuff isn’t important when making your buying decisions, but there’s so much already written about it elsewhere (64audio.com is a great place to start, followed by the 64 Audio Head-Fi thread). Also, while I might reference techie stuff like frequency and tuning, I won’t explicitly be posting any graphs because again there are far better sources for these elsewhere (@crinacle’s In-Ear Fidelity portal at crinacle.com is the gold standard).
This review is ultimately all about how I hear these IEMs with my choice of music, and with luck, that’ll be of some value to you.