Today I got the rare chance to actually review a 64 Audio earphone – the super svelte U12t. Packing a whopping twelve drivers, you know this earphone is going to sound good. But just how good? And does the sound warrant the $2000 price tag?
The U12t from 64 Audio exudes an unmistakable air of quality from the moment you open the box. Inside, you’ll find the earphones, a case, the apex m20 and m15 modules (noise-isolating inserts that fit into the earphone housing), a 4 ft detachable headphone cable, eartips, a cleaning tool, a shirt clip, a dehumidifier, a user manual, and a sticker.
As mentioned above, the U12t rocks twelve drivers – 4 low drivers, 6 mid drivers, one high tia driver, and one mid-high tia driver.
The housings themselves feature an anodized aluminum construction that weighs just enough to feel solid without being too heavy.
Frequency Range: 3-20,000 Hz
Impedance: 12.6 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 108 dB
As you can see from the specs, the U12t is operating on some simple principles – a standard frequency range with maybe a bit more pizzazz in the low end.
That low impedance will lend itself well to any low-output device, but most audiophiles will appreciate needing far less juice from an amp or DAC to power those twelve drivers.
Finally, with a sound pressure level of 108 decibels, getting adequate volume from this model shouldn’t be a concern – but most people listening to the U12t will still probably welcome the use of a low-sensitivity amp.
The low end on the U12t features lively, accurate bass, as well as tons of detail. But it’s not simply the sheer amount of detail that makes this low end so sweet; the sound remains natural, even as the bass offers just a little extra “oomph” to the sound.
There’s an overwhelming amount of detail at play in the mids, though the high lows seem to infringe just the tiniest bit. Still, fidelity remains top-notch, and the overall impression is one of clean and contrasting notes.
Bright but not too bright, the high end of the U12t displays every nuance and nails every note with exact precision. There’s a certain amount of finesse in that high end, too, where the very high highs are concerned – it’s just smoothed or relaxed the slightest, most minuscule amount to the point where it’s almost undetectable. The result is all of that brilliant detail, without ever reaching the limit of the audible comfort; violins and other strings remain goose-bump-inducingly accurate, yet they never become piercing.
With excellent depth and excellent placement, the sense of soundstage on the U12t is downright breathtaking. The experience far exceeds the soundstage I’ve heard in other in-ear models. That phenomenal sound sweeps you up and carries you away to whatever you’re listening to – and you can hear the track come to life, too – like a pop-up book, every little nuance, every little slight sound in that track comes dancing out.
The clarity and separation are a thing of beauty with the U12t. Using this earphone is a close second to a full-size open back headphone. Does it sound as wide open? No. But almost. And you also get the portability and isolation of earphones. So now instead of actually picking up the LCD-3 or some other high-end monster-of-a-headphone, I have to consider these little devils.
Price. Price is a bitch on the 64 Audio U12t. These earphones retail for a solid $2000 – and that price is more than fair. But that price is also prohibitively expensive and it breaks my heart that most audiophiles will never get to own the U12t. It breaks my heart that I am one of those audiophiles, and it breaks my heart that now a perfectly good Shure SE846 sounds like garbage to my ears.
If can’t afford the U12t, skip listening to it. You will only wind up feeling bad. Trust me. But if you can afford the U12t and you want that last audiophile score to go away on – to quit the game forever – then this might well be the earphone for you. There’s some bass at play here, and the low end is a tad bit livelier than the more expensive U18t (don’t ask), but the overall impression is one of relative balance and phenomenal accuracy.
At $2000, the 64 Audio U12t may be expensive enough to hate. But once you give this earphone a listen, the overwhelming amount of detail, fidelity, and soundstage will prove this earphone to be the stuff of dreams.
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