1964 Ears review: 1964-Q quad driver IEM
by Joey Streight
First of all, I would like to thank 1964 Ears for giving me the opportunity to review their product and thank them for their patience while waiting for me to finish this. Now, on to the important stuff. I stumbled on 1964 Ears while searching around for alternatives to the major players in the custom mold IEM market. I was very interested in the idea that there were small, independent labs all around the country, putting out cutting-edge gear that performed on a professional level. As a musician, however, the almost complete lack of feedback from anyone using them in a live or studio environment alarmed me. At the time, the only feedback available was from several great reviews on sites like Head-Fi (one of the more in-depth reviews can be found here) that were geared more towards audiophiles and based on how the monitors performed when playing back already recorded and mastered music . After communicating a few times with the people at 1964 Ears and reading several reviews, I decided that it would be worth the cost to get the Quads and review them strictly as monitors in both live and studio settings. I truly believe in 1964′s products and want to make sure that I do my part in getting the word out.
I’m going to try not to use a bunch of magical “sound words” like shimmery, gooey, or billowy because, frankly, I don’t know what they mean and I doubt many working musicians even care what they mean. ”Warm” and “muddy” will be just about it, because they are both fairly recognized words with kinda sorta accepted meanings. I’m going to do this backwards and just give you the bottom line first because any musician reading this doesn’t have time for the fluff and needs to get back to practicing or writing.
The bottom line, or- Would I take these with me if I had a session at Abbey Road tomorrow?
Yes, without a second thought. These things will flat out do work, no questions asked. I would take them right now and play in front of 200,000 people in Central Park and never think twice. If I was signed by a major label tomorrow, I would have zero reason to switch to UE, Westone, or JH Audio. If I had to buy new customs tomorrow, I would go with 1964 Ears all over again.
The look- They look great, which can be very important both from a presentation standpoint (music is a business, after all) and from a confidence standpoint. The last thing you want on your mind when you walk out on stage is whether or not you look like a doofus. I sent them custom artwork and they nailed it. They’re beautiful.
The fit- The fit is absolutely perfect. If you sing, monitors that break seal are your worst nightmare and after 7 months of regular use, I have never had them break seal while I was singing. IEM’s are worse than useless if they break seal while you’re performing. You can’t stop a show to put them back in and if you have no real back line it becomes almost impossible to perform correctly. As musicians, what we put out depends in large part on what we hear and when you rely entirely on one thing for your monitoring, you have to be able to trust it completely. I really don’t know the science behind how custom molds are made but they do it right. They don’t stab my eardrums and they aren’t so shallow that they come out.
The sound- This is where I was a little nervous. I play bass and piano, and I sing. I couldn’t really get by with a set of monitors that sacrificed one end of the sound spectrum at the expense of another. What I was afraid of, really, was ending up with a set of monitors that reproduced a sonic boom on the kick beat but that made the vocals and piano sound like something from a karaoke machine during happy hour or worse, do nothing extremely well and turn what I was hearing into a train wreck. It turns out, I had nothing to worry about. I need to be able to hear what I’m trying to do AND how it’s interacting with the rest of the instruments and vocalists and I need to know that I can trust what I’m hearing. The Quads deliver, period. I found the sound stage to be very accurate (not as important as it is for the audiophile types, but still important). It wasn’t overwhelmingly wide but keep in mind that when performing it’s more important for it to be accurate than “epic”. You aren’t on your couch with the lights dimmed, you’re living depends on you knowing whether you are on or off, even a little bit. I found them to be more deep, than wide. The separation and clarity of the individual instruments and vocals is spectacular and the monitors are able to retain the character and tone of each instrument as well. No sterile, midi-sounding guitars here. To be perfectly honest, the bass is wonderful in these. It’s warm, it’s low, and it’s accurate. It’s basically perfect, in my opinion. It doesn’t just boom all over the place and get muddy and obscure everything else for the sake of having “loud bass”. If the bass is low, it isn’t going to get boosted through the roof artificially and that’s VERY important to me. I need to know how I’m really sounding. To be perfectly honest, even outside of the context that I’m reviewing these, they are a joy to listen to music with. The drums sound very three dimensional and are very accurate. In particular, the kick and snare both retain their character very well. I have nothing but great things to say about the mids and highs as well. There isn’t this huge mid monster overwhelming some of the more delicate highs and on the other hand, no harsh ear-fatiguing treble. Singing in studio was a great experience. They were super accurate (nothing like REALLY hearing how you sound, instead of how your mom thinks you sound!) and I never once felt lost or like I didn’t have a grip on how I sounded and how the session was going. At the end of the day, I don’t see how they could perform any better, from a musical standpoint. I felt like they were incredibly accurate while not being sterile in the least. Each instrument was clear, separate, and big while also being warm and rich.
Extra stuff- The Pelican case is very nice and the perfect size. It slides right in to the pocket of my gig bag or clips on to my messenger bag with no issues at all. The cord is very high quality and I haven’t had any problems with it at all.
Customer Service- The customer service was as good as any I’ve ever dealt with, in any industry. From start to finish, Anastasia and Alex were very helpful and were always very prompt in replying to me. I felt that they were always completely honest and open with me and I feel completely confident in saying that if I’d had any issues with my order, they would have done their best to make it right. The techs did a wonderful job on the color of my molds and on the custom artwork I sent. The artwork was sketched and required some extra work on their part and they knocked it out of the park.