DISCLAIMER: AME Custom have loaned me the Argent in return for my honest opinion. I am not personally affiliated with the company in any way, nor do I receive any monetary rewards for a positive evaluation. I’d like to AME Custom for their kindness and support. The review is as follows.
AME Custom is one of the in-ear monitoring scene’s latest debutants. The Seoul-based company entered the industry as a retail store specialising in custom cables, earphone and headphone modifications, and repair, before becoming one of Korea’s few full-fledged custom in-ear companies. And, kicking their repertoire off with a bang, the first two products on their catalogue are electrostatic hybrids, no less. The in-ear monitor we’re looking at today is their Argent. Comprised of four armatures and a duo of e-stats, it’s one of the most vibrant, fun and yet guilt-free IEMs I’ve heard at this price range.
AME Custom Argent
- Driver count: Four balanced-armature drivers and two electrostatic drivers
- Impedance: 19Ω @1kHz
- Sensitivity: 100dB @1kHz
- Key feature(s) (if any): N/A
- Available form factor(s): Custom and universal acrylic in-ear monitors
- Price: $1300
- Website: www.amecustom.com
The Argent is a lively, detail-oriented piece that balances clarity with striong wetness and body. Its tilt toward the treble and upper-mids generate fast, airy and open transients. But, all that sparkle comes cushioned by presence and solidity along the mids, as well as low-end warmth. The result is a well-balanced, coherent and refined timbre. Instruments are crisp and punchy, serving Dirty Loops’s Sexy Girls all the explosiveness it needs. And, the ones that need full-spectrum impact like Dave Weckl’s snare drum on Apocalypso are given weight and integrity too. Spatially, the Argent’s portrayals of width and depth are convincing. Instruments are palpably out-of-head, and stereo separation is outstanding as well.
Down low, the Argent flaunts fantastic size and weight. While the sub-bass isn’t as present, extension is wonderful. Aron Mellergard’s floor tom on Dirty Loops’ Work Sh*t Out sounds guttural and chest-pounding. Also, the sub’s restraint frees up headroom for the higher frequencies, allowing the image to remain clean and airy. The mid-bass is the Argent’s star with just as much ferventness as the top-end, plus a fine balance between looseness and definition. The bass drum and guitar on Prep’s Futures is a strong showcase for this; fat, warm and visceral, yet detailed too. A dip along the upper-bass and low-mids prevents the region from sounding too warm too. So, despite the bass’s bigness, it has clarity at all times.
The Argent’s midrange is detail-oriented and crisp. It’s more neutral in terms of size, body and tone. But, again, enough resonance prevents it from sounding hollow or one-dimensional. The lower-mids are laid-back, so male vocals may find themselves modest in gusto. Nelly Furtado outshines Michael Bublé on their duet of Quando, Quando, Quando. Though, higher-pitched instruments are dealt a better hand. Energetic vocalists like Jade Bird on I Get No Joy sound explosive and dynamic. Then, a tasteful dip around 3-4kHz generates air between the listener and the track, further selling the Argent’s depth. So, while it’s lighter and airier than it is natural, this clean, refined and detailed midrange is always pleasantly fun.
The Argent’s top-end is surprisingly well-tempered. It employs subtle peaks along 5kHz and 8kHz for articulation, giving hi-hats and cymbals edge and cut. While it also introduces a hint of brightness to the overall tone, never is it ever coarse, harsh or dry. There isn’t a hint of an etch to the Argent, which – considering its clarity – is a mighty impressive feat. Snare drums and electric guitars crackle, but they remain super refined. So do cymbals, which – aided by the Argent’s genuine depth – come across realistic and never come off aggressive. Finally, the e-stats bring tons of openness and space. Notes have lots of air around them to ring. And, they all boast impressive speed too, making layering and separation a breeze.
On paper, the Argent and Electro sport very similar driver set-ups. And, while I’d usually caution how misleading that can be, this is that one rare occasion when the specs sheet does translate sonically. The two sport neutral signatures with an emphasis on the upper-mids and top-end. Though, the Argent is audibly more coloured in that regard. It is more vibrant, light and airy, while the Electro is more laid-back, controlled and linear. This is especially true of the treble. The Electro’s has more depth and finesse to it, while the Argent’s is more forwardly-positioned, articulate and bright. Dynamically, this also means the Argent is more engaging, forward and intimate, while the Electro sits back with its surround sound stage.
Lime Ears Aether R
Only second to the Alclair Electro, Lime Ears’ Aether R is perhaps the most sonically like the Argent. It has a similar bump along 2-3kHz, which pushes instruments forward. And, it has similar peaks along the top-end for clarity and articulation. However, as you may see with the next few comparisons, the Argent is a just a bit leaner along the lower-mids than the Aether R, which gives its instruments a slightly airier, lighter timbre. Interestingly though, the Argent doesn’t sound thin or plasticky against the R, nor does it with the other four, which speaks to how well-executed its colouration is. With the R, this comes from the Argent’s warmer lows. What extra body the R has in the low-mids, the Argent has in the mid-bass.
Custom Art FIBAE 7
Conversely, Custom Art’s FIBAE 7 is perhaps furthest tonally from the Argent. The latter’s crisply sculpted tone contrasts the former’s more natural, uncoloured and well-tempered response. The FIBAE 7 is fuller, especially towards the upper-bass and low-mids. Instruments like tom-toms have greater weight and oomph, while the Argent places more emphasis on the articulation of the stick hitting against the drum’s skin. Vocals too are more vivid, rich and resonant on the FIBAE 7, while the Argent’s are leaner and lighter. The FIBAE 7’s top-end is more rounded and smooth, while the Argent sports a brighter, crisper upper-treble. The FIBAE 7 has greater textural resolution, while the Argent separates more clinically.
64 Audio A6t
Compared to 64 Audio’s A6t, the Argent is leaner and lighter. It’s far more laid-back along the lower-mids, which pushes its emphasis towards higher-pitched instruments and conjures more space around the lead instrument. The A6t’s mids are more linear, providing a more even presence among its instruments. And, compared to the Argent’s lighter, nimbler timbre, they’re denser, more solid and fibrous too. This also comes from the A6t’s heavier, warmer and fuller lows. It’s a more fun bass to listen to, but if you prefer a more vocal-emphasised response, you’ll probably find the Argent’s roomier bass more ideal. Up top, the Argent is a hair brighter, but both responses sport very similar smoothness and technique.
itsfit Lab Fusion
The Fusion is somewhat of a bridge between the A6t and Argent. Like the former, it is denser and more solid-sounding. Instruments have a stronger foundation, while the Argent comes off lighter and airier. The Fusion’s dynamic driver also provides a more guttural, more rumbly sub-bass, while the Argent’s – though mightily impressive – low-end still has the nimbleness of a balanced armature. Along the top-end, however, the Argent comes across more coherent and linear. Its 5kHz peak does not stick out as much as the Fusion’s, due to its inherently brighter timbre. It commits to its colouration. Spatially, the Argent is more vibrant and carefree, while the Fusion’s slight restraint gives it depth and imaging accuracy.