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64 Audio N8: Heart and Soul 

My favourite gear reviews are those with an interesting backstory, something to pique my interest beyond the bread-and-butter of describing sound reproduction. Few have piqued my interest more than 64 Audio’s N8, an IEM I have long coveted for its bass-first allure as much as anything else it promised sonically. 

For those who aren’t aware, my audiophile journey has generally centred on bass. Powerful, textured, emotive bass that contrasts with sweet, seductive vocals and sparkling strings is what’s always connected me emotionally to music, as far back as I can remember. 

In audio gear, that emotional connection has more often than not depended on dynamic driver bass. That woosh of air, the vacuum-like suck out which follows an explosive drum hit, the textured ripple of a bass guitar string you can feel in your cheekbones; these are the qualities I find dynamic drivers do better than any other.

N8, co-developed by legendary bassist Nathan East, has always seemed to me like a ‘love letter’ to dynamic driver bass in an IEM. It’s an IEM built to first and foremost deliver the most true-to-life bass tones (and impact) for monitoring and recording a live-performing bassist. 

But being a 64 Audio IEM, and placed bang in the middle of the company’s premium, high-performance custom IEM line-up, it’s invariably designed to be great at conveying much more than just bass. 

Indeed, N8 is a nine-driver hybrid: a 9mm bass dynamic driver paired with eight custom balanced armatures, seven of which take charge of low-mids to mid-highs, and one of which, 64 Audio’s signature Tia high-frequency driver, included solely for delivering clear, extended upper treble harmonics. 

This review is therefore going to meander a bit more than usual. I’m going to cover some of the history behind this iconic IEM (this year it turns six!), then delve into 64 Audio’s custom IEM process (with the help of the knowledgeable and ever-willing Fil Sklyarov), before getting down to the brass tacks of testing and dissecting sound performance and comparisons. 

Feel free to jump to whichever sections interest you most, but I invite you to join me for the full tour if you’re able. I promise to keep it as interesting for you as it was for me. 

Nathan East and the birth of ‘Nate’ 

From his early years in Philadelphia to his ‘big break’ as a session musician with Barry White at the tender age of 16, Nathan East is today considered one of America’s foremost bassists. He is one of the most recorded bass artists in history, with over 2,000 recordings spanning multiple genres, from Jazz to R&B and rock. 

Phil Collins, Michael Jackson, Daft Punk, Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder are just some of the music industry legends East has collaborated with in a diverse Grammy Award-winning career that includes numerous solo recordings and countless session recordings. He is also one of the founding members of the popular jazz collective Fourplay.  

It’s hard to think of a more apt collaborator, then, for a signature custom IEM, designed with professional touring and recording bassists – and, naturally, bass enthusiasts – in mind.

East is not new to the world of signature audio equipment collaborations, having put his name to a range of Yamaha bass guitars, for example. From what I understand, he therefore had a good understanding of the design process for N8, and was given extensive creative control to determine the sonic direction of the final product.

The result is a custom IEM for stage performance and monitoring that’s equally adept at recreational music enjoyment at the highest level. There is a distinct soulfulness to the sound that, having listened to many of East’s recordings, are vividly reproduced through this IEM in a way that’s very different to how I hear them with others, a sound that goes to the heart of the music he’s creating, which I’ll touch on in more detail later on. 

For now, here’s a short video that 64 Audio and Nathan East put together to tell their story of ‘Nate’, which is well worth watching before we continue. 

Continue to Creating N8…

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Guy Lerner

Guy Lerner

An avid photographer and writer 'in real life', Guy's passion for music and technology created the perfect storm for his love of portable audio. When he's not playing with the latest and greatest head-fi gear, he prefers to spend time away from the hobby with his two (almost) grown kids and wife in the breathtaking city of Cape Town, and traveling around his native South Africa.

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