Superior Fit for Superior Sound
September 20th, 2012 -- by Chris Martens
ACS Custom T2 Classic, technical highlights include:
- Dual balanced armature drivers said to deliver the most neutrally balanced sound of any of the Classic-series ACS models.
- Earpieces made from flexible “40 Shore Silicone”, which is a material ACS describes as the softest medical grade silicone available in in-ear monitors. This choice of material is, in our view, extremely significant in that it yields an earpiece whose shape is precise, yet that can bend and flex in much the same way our outer ears do. ACS claims its earpieces offer superior fit, long-term wearer comfort, and noise isolation—claims our listening tests tended to bear out. In particular, we found the ACS earpieces were able to maintain an excellent seal and very good comfort for the wearer, even in circumstances where the wearer’s jaw moved to open or close (conditions that can, with some hard-shell earpieces, cause temporary discomfort or a momentary loss of the all-important in-ear seal).
- Kevlar-reinforced signal cables with anti-noise sheaths. The T2 Classic cables are “embedded,” meaning they are not removable. Note, however, that ACS does now offer a new T2 Live! model ($999) which incorporates removable signal cables, but that also incorporates other features such as built-in ambient sound monitoring mics that may or may not be of any interest to Playback readers. (When used with an optional ACS portable amp/mic mixer, the ambient mics provided in the T2 Live! model potentially allow performing musicians to hear a mix of ambient stage sounds along with a stage monitor mix from the soundboard.). ACS' Craig Kasper advises that, “We are now starting to manufacture the standard T1 and T2 with detachable cables and no ambient mic, targeted at other segments of our user base outsider of touring artists.”
- As a clever detail touch, the signal cable is fitted with a small retaining strap fitted with snap closures. When you’re done listening to the T2’s you simply coil up the signal cables and use the built-in strap to keep them coiled.
- Leather-like semi-hard shell road case, which consists of a two-chamber inner drawer and an outer sheath.
- Leather-like soft carry pouch.
- Cleaning tool/wax pick.
- Small pouch of desiccant material to keep the IEMs dry.
- Tube of comfort cream—a gentle lubricant that can be applied to the earpieces to ease insertion/removal.
EASE OF USE
As we have found in the past when testing in-ear monitors with soft gel silicone earpieces, there is a bit of a learning curve involved in mastering proper earpiece insertion and removal techniques. As a general rule, silicone earpieces offer a fit that initially seems a bit tighter than you might find with monitors that use acrylic earpieces, but with the benefit that—once properly seated, the earpieces give you a more comfortable, more flexible, and better-sealing fit. One added point to bear in mind is that ACS’ “Full Concha” earpieces may need to be flexed just a bit in order to allow the uppermost parts of the earpieces to slip under the folds of your outer ears; this sounds weird on paper, I know, but in practice you may experience one of those “Aha!” moments when the earpieces finally snap into place. Don’t skip over the important step of tucking the top edge of the earpieces under the folds of your outer ears; in our experience, this small but worthwhile step proved one of the keys to getting maximum performance from the ACS monitors.
Our findings: The ACS T2 Classic may take some effort to learn to fit properly, but it rewards the user with an incredibly comfortable and ultra secure fit, plus ACS states that its earpieces use a so-called “Full Concha” ear mold. In practice, this means that the ACS earpieces extend upward further than most other custom-fit units do, meaning that the earpieces actually tuck under folds in the outer ear and thus are effectively “locked” in place when properly fitted. We found this arrangement gave excellent noise isolation and an incredibly secure fit, yet one that is not restrictive and that allows relatively easy earpiece insertion/removal excellent noise isolation. The T2, along with Sensaphonics’ 2MAX monitor, provides the best noise isolation of any monitor we’ve tested.
About our listening tests: For purposes of this section of the review, we listened to the T2 Classic through are variety of amplifiers and source components, including: