1964 EARS 1964-V3 Review

39


Reviewed November 2012

Details: 2nd-gen triple-driver custom from 1964EARS utilizing a new 3-way crossover
Base Price: $499 from 1964ears.com (discontinued)
Specs: Driver: Triple BA | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 119 dB | Freq: 12-17k Hz | Cable: 4.2′ L-plug
Wear Style: Over-the-ear

Accessories (5/5) – Shirt clip, ¼” adapter, cleaning tool, carrying pouch, and crushproof Pelican storage case
Build Quality (5/5) – The 1964-V3 utilizes a brand new 3-way setup in a familiar dual-bore configuration. Molding quality is greatly improved compared to my old 1964-T, with no bubbles, very clear faceplates, and better finish around the cable sockets and nozzles. Like the 1964-T before it, the V3 uses a cable with a standard Westone socket, albeit with a shorter memory wire section and a different plug and y-split. Options include recessed cable sockets, custom artwork, custom colors, and various exotic faceplates
Isolation (4/5) – The isolation provided by the fitted acrylic shells is excellent -slightly below that of Etymotic Research earphones but higher than with stage monitors from the likes of Westone and EarSonics
Microphonics (5/5) – Pretty much nonexistent as with all of my custom monitors
Comfort (5/5) –The acrylic shells are hard but not in the least uncomfortable when fitted correctly. As with all customs, putting them in will require a bit of getting used to for first-time users but the twisting motion eventually becomes second nature. If the earphones remain uncomfortable after an initial break-in period, a refit under the 30-day fit guarantee is probably a good idea. There is added cost with shipping the monitors back and, if necessary, getting new impressions but on the whole a perfect fit is well worth the trouble

Sound (9.4/10) – The 1964-V3 is the second-generation triple-driver custom from 1964EARS. The original 1964-T will always have a special place in my heart as my very first custom monitor, but there is no denying that it had room for improvement. With an additional crossover point for a true 3-way configuration, the V3 is superior to the old model in both tuning and ability.

The bass of the V3 is delivered by one of the twin Knowles CI armatures and bests the lows of the old 1964-T in both quantity and quality. The V3 takes on an enhanced-bass profile with warm overall tonality. The bass impresses in both extension and impact, with better depth, more punch, and a more natural note presentation compared to the old 1964-T. The V3 also sounds more effortless and dynamic overall, and despite the above-average note thickness remains quick and clean. Bass bleed is minimized by the prominent midrange, though the V3 still appears a touch boomy next to leaner earphones such as the Alclair Reference.

The midrange of the V3 is smooth and forward, with good note thickness and a pleasant warmth. It sounds lush and fluid, in stark contrast to the somewhat dry 1964-T. Clarity is improved as well, with the mids sounding more transparent and making the 1964-T appear a touch muffled in comparison. Detail levels are still not quite as impressive as with some of my higher-end monitors but definitely not lacking. The treble energy of the V3 is not too great, allowing it to remain a warm-sounding earphone. However, it is brighter and has better top-end extension compared to the old 1964-T. Predictably, the V3 is slightly more sibilance-prone than the smoother, more laid-back 1964-T, but also more lively and energetic.

The presentation of the V3 is solid as well – the V3 is better at portraying intimacy than 1964’s previous triple-driver and has better soundstage depth in addition to very decent width. The result is better layering and a slightly more spacious overall sound compared to the previous model – not quite to the level of the AKG K3003 or Alclair Reference, but not too far off. It’s worth also noting that the V3 is a very sensitive earphone and tends to hiss with some of my poorer sources. Even the generally quiet Fiio E7 isn’t quite dead-silent with the V3.

Select comparisons

Clear Tune Monitors CT-200 ($350)

The CTM-200 is a dual-driver custom monitor from Florida-based Clear Tune Monitors. Designed for stage performance, the CTM-200 boasts a leaner, flatter sound signature that is more accurate than it is musical. The 1964-V3 offers up more of both sub-bass and mid-bass, providing added power and punch. It is also a bit more forward in the midrange and provides a livelier, more dynamic sound. The CTM-200 is more accurate and sounds a bit cleaner as a result of its lower bass quantity. Its tone is quite neutral compared to the warmer 1964-V3 and its treble is smoother, reducing harshness and listening fatigue. However, detail resolution lags behind the 1964-V3 a little. Soundstage size is similar between the two earphones with the exception of depth, which is won by the V3. In general, the CTM-200 sounds a bit more laid-back and may be boring for the casual listeners, whereas the more colored signature of the V3 may be ‘just right’. The opposite is true for someone chasing a flat, accurate sound.

Alclair Reference ($399)

The Alclair Reference is a 2-way, triple-driver earphone with impressive technical ability. Originally priced at $499, the Reference has recently dropped in price, putting it in direct competition with the 1964-V3. Compared to the new 1964EARS, the Reference sounds more laid-back and spacious. Its bass has similarly good depth but less mid-bass emphasis for a cleaner sound and cooler tone. Both earphones have impressive bass punch and power. Detail resolution is slightly better with the flatter-sounding Reference while the V3 is smoother and would probably be considered more “musical” by most. Its sound is more intimate and its note presentation – thicker and more “fluid”. The treble of the V3 is also a bit more forgiving of sibilance compared to the Reference.

Ultimate Ears 900 ($400)

UE’s quad-driver flagship is a top-tier universal with a sound signature that does a good job of treading the line between accurate and “fun”. Compared to the 1964-V3, the UE 900 offers a flatter bass profile with better balance between mid-bass and sub-bass, less upper midrange emphasis, and a smoother top end more forgiving of harshness and sibilance. The V3 is warmer in tone but also offers brighter, livelier treble. Its sound is more dynamic, albeit a touch more fatiguing compared to the smooth UE 900. Its midrange is clearer and slightly more detailed, with guitars and vocals sounding raw and transparent, in sharp contrast to the somewhat veiled upper mids of the UE 900. The V3 also sounds more intimate but still provides a more 3-dimensional presentation with better depth and a stronger center image.

Phonak PFE 232 ($599)

Phonak’s dual-driver flagship easily competes with some of the very best universals but is somewhat less impressive when compared to the cheaper 1964-V3. In terms of sound signature, the PFE 232 is far more similar to the Alclair Reference, pursuing a slightly v-shaped sound with prominent treble, and deep, punchy bass. The tone of the 1964-V3 is warmer and the earphone places more emphasis on the mid-bass region. Compared to the V3, the PFE 232 sounds more distant and has a thinner note presentation as well as less mid-bass emphasis. The midrange of the PFE 232 is not as clear and intelligible as that of the V3. With the V3, the mids are much more forward but also more transparent. There is also a large difference in efficiency – the V3 is very sensitive for an in-earphone while the sensitivity of the PFE 232 is definitely on the low side.

Unique Melody Miracle ($949)

Unique Melody’s flagship utilizes a 3-way 6-driver design, beating out the V3 in technical ability, but at a much higher price. The sound signature of a Miracle is a more neutral one, with a flatter frequency profile for a more balanced sound. The Miracle has better detail resolution and a more spacious—but still very enveloping—presentation. The Miracle focuses on deep bass, with less mid-bass boost compared to the V3 resulting in less impactful but tighter, cleaner, and more resolving bass. The V3 sounds less textured and a touch boomy in comparison, though it avoids mid-range bleed by pushing the mids forward. The treble of the Miracle is both more forgiving and more extended, with a sharp gain in refinement over the cheaper 1964s.

Value (9/10) – Priced close to its predecessor but boasting a revised driver configuration and improved tuning, the 1964 EARS 1964-V3 is an easy recommendation among entry-level custom earphones. Compared to similarly-priced universals, the V3 not only sounds fantastically good, but also offers the usual perks of going custom, including isolation, fit, and personalization options. The V3 also boasts better molding quality than my old 1964-T, competing with CTM and Unique Melody for the nicest shells I’ve seen so far. Sound-wise, the earphone still boasts full, forward mids but no longer sounds as mid-centric, offering deeper, more powerful bass and more energetic treble. The sound signature of the V3 is a warm and musical one – perhaps not ideal for monitoring purposes but very, very enjoyable in day to day listening.

Pros: Great molding quality; comfort and isolation of a custom monitor; warm sound with prominent mids, powerful bass, and a well-layered presentation
Cons: Colored sound may not be great for actual monitoring


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

39 Comments

  1. rob on

    Hey, nice review. I think I’m very close to buying these but I’m confused about one thing. You say that these are warm sounding with thick and forward mids, but then also say that they are v-shaped in the comments. Isn’t that conflicting (v to me means that the mids are laid back compared to the bass and treble). My only concern is that I don’t want these to be to bright and fatiguing since I will be wearing them at work for potentially long periods of time.

    Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      They are not really a conventional V-shape in the sense that the mids are deeply recessed, thin, or lacking in presence. But, there’s a mild bass “hump” and the treble is on the sparkly side, with some peaks here and there, so I couldn’t find a better way to describe it than to say it sounds v-shaped. The JVC FXT90 is something of an equivalent to this in universal form – its mids just aren’t notably recessed, but it also has a bass hump and quite a bit of sparkle.

      • Rob on

        Thanks for the reply! I think I understand what you mean now. Do you have any experience with the adel series by 1964? I was thinking of switching my choice to the A3 but was not sure the $200 boost would be worth it (and at that price I would also have to consider the V6s). Any general comments on the choice between these 3 CIEMs?

        • ljokerl on

          Only the Adel A12, but that’s well outside the V3’s price range. I haven’t tried the regular V6, either, only the V6-Stage.

  2. Sayeh on

    I have been back and forth in trying decide between 1964 V6-S and V3s. I mainly need them for leading worship on stage, as I am a vocalist and play acoustic guitar. I want to get V6, but it doesn’t have ambient ports, which seems pretty important because I like to be able to hear the room and not be so isolated….are the ambient ports worth getting V3s? Or is the quality of the V6 which are made for stage better? Price isn’t a problem either way, just not sure what it is best for what I’m looking for and need. Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      The more neutral sound of the V6-Stage would likely be the better fit here but combined with the higher price and the lack of the ambient port feature you need it sounds like the V3 would be a better buy. They still do well as stage monitors an the clarity in the vocal range is certainly there. Can’t comment on the ambient port feature itself because none of my monitors have it, but the isolation of the non-ported 1964EARS monitors does dampen outside sound quite a bit.

  3. Jake on

    I will mostly be listening to music on my iPhone, and only occasionally using iem’s on stage. Would these be a good choice for that? Or would I be better off with something else?

    • ljokerl on

      Yeah, these are great if your main goal is just listening to music and your secondary goal is stage. They’re a little less neutral compared to some of the other custom monitors I’ve tried in this price range, but they’re as good as anything for actual listening enjoyment.

  4. Japheel on

    been looking at a few ciems and narrowed it down to the alclair reference or the v3, but which of the two have a faster note decay?

    • ljokerl on

      On average, the Alclair.

  5. [email protected]!c on

    Hey Joker.
    Would you recommend the 1964 v3 over the Earsonics Velvet?. I’m curious about the sound quality in general.
    Last question: How is the bass quantity – quality compare to the Earsonics Velvet?.

    Thanks…
    Sorry for my english. 🙂

    • ljokerl on

      I would, but keep in mind the biggest difference between them is going to be the treble, not the bass. The Velvet is smoother while the V3 is more sparkly and exciting.

      The V3’s bass is closer to the least bassy setting of the Velvet. If you want more bass headroom, the Velvet is the better choice.

  6. cesheid on

    Would you recommend the 1965 v3 over the Noble 3c? They both have a 3 driver design and are similarly priced, trying to decide between the two or maybe you could recommend something else at this price point. I’m going to be using them primarily for Audiophile listening with and
    without a headphone amp. Thanks for all the info!

    • ljokerl on

      Sorry, no experience with the 3C to be able to compare the two. I still think the V3 is awesome several years on, though, if you like an aggressive, mildly v-shaped sound.

      • Cameron Sheid on

        I think I’ve made the decision to go with the ’64 v3, thanks for the reply!

  7. Andy on

    Wich would you recommend better for a guitar player the 1964 V3 or the alclair reference?

    • ljokerl on

      Either one should do fine. The Reference is flatter in tuning so it’s probably the one I’d pick for any kind of critical/reference use over the slightly more colored-sounding 1964-V3. But really, in this price range, you can’t go wrong with either.

      • Andy on

        Olay thanks alot!

        Im going to go ahead with the alclairs then.

  8. Laist on

    Hey Joker,

    How would you compare the Westone 4R against the V3? I’m curious about the isolation and sound quality in general. I’ve listened to both (owning 4R currently, tried V3 in 1964 Ears office) but I’m looking for second opinion about them

    Thanks for the reviews!

    • ljokerl on

      Isolation is better on the V3 but not by as much as you might expect – if you’re using foam tips with your W4 you’re most of the way there already. Sound-wise the V3 has a more aggressive sound signature. Bass is punchy but bleeds less than the W4’s and the clarity is better overall. It’s more exciting and energetic thanks to greater treble presence, but also not quite as smooth as the darker-sounding Westones. For my taste the V3 wins any day, but they sound different enough that they’re not really direct competitors.

      • Laist on

        Okay, thanks!

        My first impression of V3 was it sounded like HD600 with more bass (probably because of the more forward upper-midrange)

        • ljokerl on

          I think all Westones have a dip in that area so coming from the W4 that’s definitely true.

  9. Eric Ajimine on

    This website is SO helpful for people looking to get serious about IEMs.

    In part because it gets hard to know what sound you like.

    With that in mind, I really do like the even keeled balance of the TDK BA 200. But now I would like to try CIEMS.

    Based on all I have read, the Alclair reference or the 1964Ears V3 might be the ticket.

    What I really like about the TDK BS 200 is how even it is throughout the range. Nothing pokes out which makes everything sound right tonally.

    I actually prefer it to the Westone W30.

    So which do you recommend? (I would add that I use lossless rips on an Iphone 5s. Also add that I least enjoy (and am bothered by) sibilance).

    • ljokerl on

      It’s funny that you mention the W30 because I’d say that with its rather robust bass and energetic treble the signature of the 1964-V3 is closer to that than to the smoother, more relaxed BA200.

      The Reference is more similar to the BA200 in balance and tone but tends to be a little more sibilant, so that might disqualify it for you.

      You may want to consider paying a little more for a Custom Art Pro 330v2, which in this case combines all of the traits you do want from the V3 and Alclair Reference http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-custom-art-harmony-8-pro-pro-330-v2/

      • Eric Ajimine on

        Okay, I will make some inquiries into the Custom Arts.

        For my reference, I know that the StageDiver2 is very close to the BA 200s for universals (with better treble and sub bass extension, which would perfect, except they are universals).

        For top end CIEMs, based on everything I read, I suspect the Unique Melody Miracle’s would be about perfect and the JH13 Pro Freq Phase being a close second but maybe a bit “in my face” comparatively?

        Thanks very much on the reply. It’s really hepful for pointing me in the right direction.

      • Eric Ajimine on

        Re-read a lot of your reviews again and decided to take the plunge.

        The VAT comment is very important, apparently. VAT is crazy high in EU.

        Piotr answered my email quickly so that was helpful.

        Your comment that Silicone helping to maintain a good seal helped me to decide also.

        One of the reasons for trying a CIEM is:

        1) The sound of the TDK BA 200 is to my liking BUT the cabling and y connector (I guess where the impedance network is housed) are not. Sometimes I have to fiddle a bit to get a good seal on both sides. Without a good seal, bass really suffers.

        2) Looking for slightly more refinement and extension at the sub bass and trebles.

        Thanks for your guidance.

        • ljokerl on

          You are correct about the StageDiver being a good universal alternative/upgrade to the BA200, but I also found it less comfortable than the TDK. There’s a new SD-2S version now that’s supposed to be smaller and more comfortable, but I haven’t tried it. There’s also a custom version of the SD-2 but I haven’t tried that, either.

          For top tier the Miracle would be good indeed. Noble 4S also, though the bass is a touch less deep on that (but it’s more smooth and has more prominent mids).

          I think the Pro 330 is a good choice. Just out of curiosity, what was the VAT-less price?

          • Eric Ajimine on

            To get the VAT price, you have to choose UPS Express Option. VAT is 23% per Piotr.

            For detachable cables it was 1870 PLN without shipping and without artwork etc. (Compared to 2300 PLN in the order form which has VAT).

            So for attached cables without VAT, it would be a very good bargain but like the old Shures (SE530 etc) I might always worry about cable wear out so I got the detachable cables.

            Being my first CIEM, I thought to not try to hit a home run (i.e go for UM Miracles right away). Silicon might be slightly more forgiving and I can recenter my feelings on sound with the 330 v2.

            With the TDK BA200, it sounds different (slightly) when I use the Shure Medium Olives (my current setup) vs. the silicone bi-flange. Similarly for the Westone W30. On the W30 my preferred tips were the STAR tips as the Shure Olives are just too dark and bass heavy.

          • ljokerl on

            Good deal and a very good approach to upgrading. The PRO 330 does run on the brighter, more balanced side compared to the BA200 so I don’t think you’ll have any issues with it being too dark.

  10. Knicholas on

    Does anyone tried this in comparison to the Custom Art Music Twos and Alclair Reference? Those are the 3 I’m considering…

  11. jswansong on

    Hey, |joker|.

    I’m still out on the hunt for my first ciem, and have found your advice indispensable thus far. I’ve backed away from the Music Ones out of concern for the lack of treble energy you conveyed. My budget has also increased a bit in the meantime, and I’ve grown more accustomed to the VSonic VSD1S, and perhaps influenced by the speaker-in-room response research by Dr. Olive (http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/harman-researchers-make-important-headway-understanding-headphone-response), I have grown to appreciate the heavier bass response, especially on the go.

    Based on where I’m at now, my attention has turned to these 1964 V3s. How does the bass quantity/quality compare to the VSonic VSD1S? I’m pretty sure I’d love the mids, based on your description. The treble is the only real concern, other than whether the bass is overpowering. You said the highs are more energetic than the old model, does that mean the highs have enough energy? Can they bite when called upon, or shimmer when asked to? Is it the ‘shhh’ or ‘tsss’ on the cymbals?

    As always, thanks for your help.

    • ljokerl on

      Hmm.. interesting upgrade path. The V3 definitely has more bass than the VSD1S – both in terms of a larger bass boost and the bass emphasis extending higher up. There’s more subbass rumble as well.

      Treble energy on the V3 is plentiful – the old 1964-T sounds treble-deficient in comparison and there’s even a little more sparkle than with the VSD1S. I’ve never caught myself thinking that the V3 needs to be more aggressive – it shimmers and cymbals have that “jarring” quality when there’s a loud hit (a good thing IMO if you’ve ever bean near a real cymbal being struck).

      • jswansong on

        Yeah, I’m a bit surprised, too. The lush musical mids are the common denominator that brought me here.

        I guess the nature of the bass quantity is the only lingering concern. Does it get in the way? I definitely appreciate the idea of brawny, muscular bass, and I don’t mind the idea of the music shaking my eyeballs loose when called for. But I need my bass to be delicate when asked to and I need it to mesh well with the rest of the sound. So what do you think? Good enough bass dynamics and overall cohesion despite the bass boost to be a solid all-rounder, equally at home with rock, edm, and acoustic (with some dabbling in classical)?

        • ljokerl on

          For me the bass of the V3 is definitely on the heavy side. A:Bing it with the VSD1 last night really makes it clear just how powerful the V3 is. It’s like a subwoofer in an enclosed space, whereas the VSD1S is “just” a speaker with a nice low end. Considering the quantity bass control is good but there’s physical limitations on how well it can stay out of the way. Definitely at home with EDM and probably Acoustic but for some rock and other music the bass drums can get a little overbearing.

          • jswansong on

            So there’s very significant bass boost. Is it a little like tape-modding a pair of Grados? Or much more than that? About how many decibels above the VSD1S would you guess, and about where in the frequency range does it taper off? (I’m going to try to eq myself to that quantity and try it out, though I’m sure the quality would be much better on the V3)

            Jambi and Rosetta Stoned by Tool are my benchmarks for bass performance in the rock genre. They both have complex, driving percussion and textured, chugging bass guitar riffs. If you have access to those songs, could you tell me if the V3s emphasize those qualities or ruin them? I could live with (and quite probably enjoy) a spotlight on the bass, but it’s an absolute no-go if it gets out of hand. Are the V6-Stage and Alclair Reference just better with that kind of music?

            Once again, thanks for your expertise.

          • ljokerl on

            Luckily I have the entire Tool catalog. Those songs sound good on the V3 – compared it to the StageDiver 3 I’m currently reviewing and there’s no advantage in bass quality or resolution (PRAT or whatever you want to call it) with the less bassy StageDiver. I do think Tool sounds better on the V6-Stage in part because of its tighter bass, but that’s a different price range. The Alclair Reference is not really better than the V3 here since it gives up other things, like the juicy mids and some of the treble smoothness.

            Looking over the measurements of stuff I’ve compared the V3 to, I’d say it’s got a least 5 dB of bass on the VSD1S, but probably a little more than that. Like the VSD1S it rolls off gently at the bottom, still producing good subbass, and the boost lasts until maybe 200Hz going up. Check out the VSD1S measurements on InnerFidelity and try to mirror its bass curve maybe 5dB higher.

          • jswansong on

            Thanks! I tried that and it sounded pretty good on a variety of albums, especially when walking around outside. The VSD1S handled the boost admirably, giving bass that’s strong and heavy, but still mostly clean and not really overbearing. The one concern was things getting a little closed in on The Pot, but I’m willing to chalk that up to the little earphone’s limitations, not an intrinsic issue with the bass quantity combined with the recording. What’s your opinion on that?

            Thanks for your impressions of this music with the other big contender at this price range. I don’t think I’d be willing to give up beautiful mids for flatter bass given I’m not too bothered by the boosted bass. The only other option at this price point that I don’t feel like I have a good handle on is the JH Audio JH5|PRO. Any chance you have experience with that one?

            Last question (I swear): If the extra $275 it takes to get the V6-Stage over the V3 wasn’t out of the question (which it might not be depending on how the next couple weeks go), would it be worth it to take the plunge? Is that bass more like the VSD1S in quantity?

          • ljokerl on

            I don’t think I’ve ever tried EQing my VDS1S that much but imaging it would run out of steam. The V3 sounds pretty effortless when it comes to bass.

            I have not tried the JH5 – sorry.

            For me the V6-Stage would be worth the extra $$. Its performance really is closer to $1000+ sets like the JH13 than to mid-level customs. The bass on the V6-Stage is much more neutral, with less boost than the VSD1S, but it’s still punchy and has stellar resolution.

          • jswansong on

            Thanks! You’re awesome.

            I have some V6-Stage questions that I will ask on the proper page for the benefit of all.

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