Review written by @Precogvision
Quality over quantity. That’s a saying thrown around quite often, and yet somehow we’re always falling prey to the latter. Within the context of IEMs, quantity is synonymous with the number of drivers utilized in an IEM. Generally speaking, more drivers means greater control over individual frequency ranges; ergo better sound. This is why you’ll see no shortage of cheap IEMs sporting high driver counts - because “more” translates to “better” for the average consumer.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t really stack up like that in practice. You can cram all the drivers in the world into an IEM, but if you don’t tune it properly and maximize synergy between said drivers, it’s an exercise in futility. My point? Done correctly, sometimes less is more, and that’s where 64 Audio’s tia Trió would like to have a word. Sporting a measly three drivers (1DD/2BA) and clocking in at a staggering $2300, it has a thing or two to show some of its flagship brethren.
This unit was loaned by Headphones.com for review and will be returned at the end of the review period. As always, what follows are my honest thoughts and opinions to the best of my ability.
Source and Driveability
- All critical listening was done off of the 3.5mm jack of an iBasso DX160 with lossless FLAC files and the volume at around 15 on low-gain. Spinfit CP145 tips and a random cable I had laying around were used. Sorry, not a big cable believer, but I do recommend picking up another cable if you purchase a Trió!
- The Trió is quite easy to drive, and because of 64 Audio’s LID technology is also fairly source agnostic.
- My genres of preference include the following: K-Pop/J-Pop, Country music, EDM, and instrumental scores.
64 Audio includes the following accessories with the Trió:
- 64 Audio Personalized Protective Case
- Cleaning Tool
- Shirt Clip
- TrueFidelity Ear Tips (S,M,L)
- Silicone Ear Tips (S,M,L)
I normally don’t like to comment much on accessories, but in this reviewer’s opinion 64 Audio would benefit from stepping up their game here. I think they’ve recognized this too, and they’ve released some new, sleeker carrying cases. Hopefully this can be extended to their universal lineup in the future.
Anyways, pro tip: I’d plan to pick up a replacement cable for the stock one. Nobody likes memory wire, and even worse, the connector joint sits flush with the IEM. Unless you take great care to use both hands while adjusting the memory wire, this means you’re putting excessive pressure on the joint each time you fiddle with it. The case, as utilitarian as it is, also exacerbates this as it forces you to adjust the memory wire to fit the IEM inside. How do I know this? I own a 64 Audio U12t that I had to RMA for this exact reason.
Gripes aside, one of the cool things that sticks out to me about 64 Audio are the small, quality-of-life technologies they’ve implemented in their IEMs. A prime example of this is their Apex, pressure-release modules. You’ve probably noticed that your ears get fatigued listening to your IEMs for longer periods. Part of that might just have to do with the fit, but it’s also because those sound waves are putting pressure on your ear drums. And while it might seem like a gimmick, the Apex modules relieve this pressure, making a notable difference in practice. Seriously - once you try Apex it’s hard to go back.
Unlike some of the other 64 Audio IEMs, the M15 Apex module is directly implemented in the Trió. This means that you won't be afforded the same flexibility playing around with the sound as you might on the 64 Audio U12t or Nio. Conversely, it means less things to lose, so hey, it’s just something to consider.
Frequency response taken off of an IEC-711 clone; measurement is raw and there is a resonance peak at 8kHz. Because my tia Trió review unit had a noticeable channel imbalance, I chose to average the data. I have heard another tia Trió, and my thoughts remain the same in terms of sound.
Yeah, I wouldn’t be too happy if my $2300 IEM clearly suffered from some quality control memes. But I digress. In general, while I don’t think the Trió really follows any sort of academic target curve, it’s unmistakably a well-tuned IEM. It walks the line between being technical, fun, and easy to listen to to a very high degree. There are some signs of disjointedness, but it all just...works somehow, not unlike the 64 Audio Nio I reviewed a while back.
With respect to frequency response, the Trió follows the 64 Audio U12t’s bass response closely, but the intangible benefits of a dynamic driver are unmistakable. It sinks effortlessly into the lowest octaves with terrific dynamic slam, to the point of which it's almost fatiguing on some tracks like Illenium & Excision’s “Gold (Stupid Love)” despite my excessive tastes. Decay is drawn out to the slower side of things, contrasting appropriately with the subwoofer’s quicker, controlled attack and there’s no shortage of texture. And the best part? Because it closely follows the U12t’s bass curve, it’s largely devoid of bloat too.
In my brief stint of this hobby, I’ve come to note that different subwoofers have varying degrees of individual tactility, character to them devoid of frequency response. Like so, the Trió’s subwoofer has a certain richness to it that drips authority, refinement. Could the Trió’s attack be just a wee bit cleaner here? Absolutely. But make no mistake that the Trió’s bass is distinctive of the IEM world’s crème de la crème, and you’d be hard-pressed to fault it from a quality aspect. All this coming from someone who moans and groans about lesser bass responses all day.
Tonality-wise, the midrange dips at around 1kHz which I find robs vocals of some presence. Not unlike the venerable Sony IER-Z1R, the lower midrange is basically...just there, while the upper-midrange is more elevated and takes on a brighter hue. The Trió tries to balance this out with a slight note weight, but I’d maintain that it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, I like this type of tilt as it lends to perceived clarity; conversely, I suspect it plays into the Trió’s incoherency - something I’ll come back to later.
On a more intangible level, again, the idea of not all drivers being created equal arises. With most hybrids it’s possible to tell when there’s a crossover at play, particularly if it’s for a BA. This often presents itself with a jarring transition to the density and timbre of notes. But I find that the Trió masks this to a large degree due to a pleasant, rounded attack (not unlike the other 64 Audio IEMs) to the midrange’s transients.
64 Audio utilizes the same tia supertweeter in all their IEMs, but frankly, the direction taken with the tuning here always leaves me a little perplexed. The U12t has a mid-treble dip. The Nio sounds somewhat muted up top. And the Trió...well, the Trió just has some issues. There’s a lower treble suckout after around 5kHz that precedes the upward skew to the rest of the high frequencies, neutering stick impact and resulting in what I’ve best heard described as “sizzly”. It was disconcerting the first time I heard the Trió, enough to leave my ears ringing more than a couple times. Not the end of the world, but I do think the treble will lend itself to a love it or hate it relationship with most listeners. Outside of this issue, as you might expect, the Trió has excellent detail and extension here due to its tia driver. In tandem with the elevated upper-midrange, the Trió’s a brighter IEM.
From a technical standpoint, imaging capability is the Trió’s bread and butter. But first, let me disclaim something I’ve said before that bears repeating: This is relative within the context of IEMs. You should not expect an IEM (or any headphone even!) to magically transport you to the stage of your favorite set or artist. Additionally, this stuff tends to be even more subjective from person to person.
Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that the Trió images exceptionally well. I hear good width and height to the stage with slightly less depth. While not quite as holographic as some of the Campfire Audio stuff I’ve heard, the Trió’s ability to break the “walls” of the stage and render positional cues goes unmatched against said IEMs. What do I mean by this? Even on many IEMs that I’d consider to have large staging, instruments reverberate statically, almost like they’re smacking a pseudo-wall; this by no means makes them easier to pinpoint. Yet the Trió excels here - take for example Maria Takeuchi’s “Plastic Love” or Sawano Hiroyuki’s “Remember”. Snaps, abrupt leading hits and the way they decay, echoing throughout the stage, are particularly satisfying to hear on the Trió. This is, of course, aided by 64 Audio’s signature midrange imaging. Although not imaged as deeply as the U12t, vocals have a very pleasant tilt and projection capability is excellent.
But the Trió is no one-trick pony. For pure resolution, crispness of notes, the Trió has ample transient speed to trade blows with many of its flagship peers. While I don’t think it’s quite as resolving overall (factoring in sheer detail retrieval) as the U12t in this instance, it’s certainly no slouch. Layering, another subset of resolving capability, is of course excellent due to the Trió’s open, sonic wall-less staging. I find that the Trió also has a pleasant timbral coloration that contrasts nicely with its very dark background.
It’s unusual to get this far in one of my reviews without some critiques, and despite my high regard for the Trió it’s certainly far from being without flaw. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, as there are a couple key issues I have with the Trió:
1) It sounds flatter than it should. You’re probably thinking, “What? Isn’t this a more V-shaped IEM?”. And yup, you’re correct! But I’m not talking about tonality so much as I am the intangible side of things. More specifically, macrodynamics, an IEM’s ability to scale quiet and loud gradations in a given track. The Trió has a slight upwards compression to the way it scales said gradations. Yet, I don’t think this fully accounts for why the Trió sounds so...disengaging at times in contrast with its tuning, and perhaps this can also be attributed to less-than-stellar microdynamics. Mind you, this is relative to 64 Audio’s own U12t; however, nothing short of excellence is the standard at the flagship level.
2) Furthermore, at least in the circles I hang in, many hold that the Trió is one of the more incoherent hybrids out there. With the Trió this issue is most noticeable (for me) in the bass relative to the upper-midrange. The attack of the upper-midrange, despite the wonderful transient smoothing I cited earlier, skews slightly quicker than the subwoofer. Given that the subwoofer also controls the lower-midrange, I’d posit that the same holds true in comparison. Still, I am not very good at picking up on this stuff - if I even catch it at all. It generally requires me to do some thinking after the fact to digest what I’ve heard; thus, I suspect there’s more to the Trió’s incoherency than just this issue. And no, this is not just because my unit has a channel imbalance. Whether by virtue of its intangibles or the tuning itself - the clean bass transition, the 1kHz dip, the lower-treble suckout - I have to concur that the Trió is noticeably more “disjoint” than some of its hybrid peers.
64 Audio Mini Shootout
Let’s talk about the Nio and U12t. These are the other 64 Audio IEMs that I’ve heard; unfortunately, I can’t speak for the U18t or tia Fourte. I wish I had the Legend X or the Sony IER-Z1R on hand too, but alas, I’m working with what I have!
Frequency response taken off of an IEC-711 clone; measurements are raw and matched at 1kHz. 64 Audio Nio measurement provided by fellow reviewer, Antdroid. Please note that it (Nio) will not match exactly given differences in measuring style. In this case, Nio actually has more sub-bass.
Nio. This IEM follows something close to an L-shaped frequency response depending on the module you have in it. It has the most sub-bass quantity of the three, and there’s unmistakably a “dirtiness” to its transients here. Midrange has a good deal of note weight, leans towards the thicker side of things, while the treble is more muted. Technicalities aren’t the greatest; the Nio hits the sonic-wall quite quickly and resolving capability is middling. However, it is a very cohesive IEM in that everything meshes together quite well, and it’s easy on the ears.
U12t. Follows close to a U-shaped frequency response. The best BA bass that I’ve heard; it has more texture, nuance than many dynamic drivers. Still lacking some density to its bass notes and the deepest registers of dynamic slam; however, it sets the bar impossibly high for other BA IEMs. Midrange is dead balanced in terms of weight while the treble has something of a mid-treble suckout before peaking in the highest registers for air. Technicalities - sheer resolving capability is excellent, and all the more so given the transient smoothing going on. Images the midrange further back begetting an enormous sense of depth; however, neither is the sonic-wall broken laterally nor is imaging quite holographic.
Moving back to the tia Trió, I’ll say it again: The tia Trió is not perfect. It suffers from the flaws of many lesser hybrids, and I’d probably take my U12t, or heck, even the 64 Audio Nio over it on the basis of preference. But in a sea of middling-to-worse flagships (hey, you didn’t read that here), the Trió unmistakably has the hallmarks of a top-tier IEM. The bass is to die for, the imaging is superb, and it’s a well-tuned IEM despite lacking some engagement factor. It’s a shame, really, that the Trió often slips under the radar for the reasons I cited in my preface. So if you’re looking for a fun, smooth IEM to round out your collection, or dare I say perhaps your endgame, don’t sleep on this one. Give it a shot. The Trió is an exercise in when implementation reigns supreme, when less is truly more.
Join the discussion about the 64 Audio Tia Trio on the HEADPHONE Community Forum.