A few months ago, I reviewed the 1964 Ears V6 Stage custom IEM. I was very impressed with that monitor, and continue to listen to them quite regularly. With six drivers per ear, the frequency response is broad; it goes very low and very high with no sense of fatigue at all. At $699 list, they are not inexpensive, but compared to other six-driver units from other manufacturers, it’s quite a bargain.
Not everyone can afford $700 for IEMs, however, and 1964 has a range of products to suit most budgets. In addition to the V6 Stage, 1964 also sent me their Dual unit. I should note up front that as of this writing, the Dual has been replaced by the V2, which is an updated version.
Like the V6 Stage, the Dual comes in a hard Pelican-style case with a cleaning tool and 3.5mm to TRS adapter. Also included (and I love this small touch) is a collar clip to keep the cord from pulling on your ears. Also like the V6 Stage, the stiff part of the cord that exits the monitor is too short to fully wrap over the ear. It’s not a deal breaker, but I wish it were longer.
Fewer Drivers=Lower Cost
As the name implies, the Dual uses a single low driver and a single high driver in each ear. This keeps the cost and complexity down, and actually results in a pretty nice sound. In fact, if I didn’t have the V6 Stage to compare to, I would say the Duals sound very good. And they do; it’s just a matter of course when you add more drivers sound quality (and cost) goes up.
This is not to say that the Dual doesn’t sound good. Compared to my reference budget IEM, the Westone UM1, there is no comparison; the Dual goes a good two octaves lower and has a much more refined high end. In fact, the low end is very solid on the Dual; this is a monitor that bass players and drummers on a budget are going to like.
Compared to the far more expensive UE7s that I use often, the bass response of the Duals is also quite a bit better. Where the Dual gives up some ground is in the midrange. Vocals aren’t quite as defined and the transition from lows to mids is a little muddled.
Just as matching the right mic to the source is important, matching the right IEM to the player is also key. I’ve heard complaints from some of our drummers and bass players who have the more expensive tripple-driver UE7s because they don’t really get down to the lower 2-3 octaves very well. Interestingly, switching to a dual driver often helps.
In that way, I think the Dual (and most likely the newly updated V2) is a great value proposition for drummers, bass players, percussionists, and probably guitar players as well. At under $400, it’s one of the least expensive custom IEMs out there.
The vocal range of the Dual is also quite smooth; you would just have to be careful to roll off some low end in the mix so it doesn’t end up masking some of the details.
Compared to the V6 Stage
It’s almost not fair to compare them because the driver count is 3x and the cost is 2x. However, to give you an idea of the range available, here goes. The sound stage of the V6 Stage is quite a bit more defined. The placement of individual instruments is more apparent, the highs are more extended, and the midrange is quite smooth and defined. I would say the Duals feel like the low end—especially the bottom octave or two—is deeper, but that may be perception.
Overall, the V6 Stage is quite a bit more detailed, which is exactly what you would expect from a six-driver IEM. But in back to back tests, the Duals are by no means a bad choice. Again, when matched to the source well, I think they are a great choice, especially for the church that needs to buy many IEMs.
Compared to the UE900
I’m a fan of the UE900; it’s possibly the best universal IEM I’ve heard. The UE900 is extremely smooth, very hi-fi sounding. The Dual is a little bit more aggressive and up close with the sound, probably because the ports are close to your eardrums. And the isolation is far superior with the custom molded Dual. If I could, I would almost always go custom. But if budget doesn’t hold up, the UE900 is the best universal I’ve found.
A Little Tweaking…
Just for fun, as I was writing this, I decided to apply a little EQ to the Duals to see if I could get them closer to the V6 Stage. Most of the time, when reviewing IEMs, I listen to them flat because I want to see what they really sound like. But it occurred to me that it was from about 2KHz up that I felt the Duals were struggling. So I put a little high shelf filter on there to boost that range by about 2 dB.
I was surprised at how much nicer they sounded. The definition is there, it just needs a little help. Now, the V6 Stage is still smoother and more refined. But if you’re on a budget and need a good IEM, the Duals (now the V2) would be a great choice—just have the sound guy add a couple dB from 2K on up and you’re good.
For a $400 custom molded IEM, the 1964 Ears Dual, and presumably the V2, is a very solid choice.
Also, full disclosure, 1964 Ears provided these review units to me at no charge.