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REVIEW: ACS T15 – The Analytic Dwarf

ACS (Advanced Communication Solutions) was established in 1994 with a mission to supply, develop and manufacture products that protect the hearing of people whose livelihoods depend on working in dangerously high sound levels such as Musicians, Machinery Operators, etc. Today, 18 years since its founding, ACS is a leading Custom In Ear Monitors. What do LMFAO, Black Sabbath, U2 and Tiesto share in common? ACS is the answer; they all use ACS’ custom IEMs on stage; Lots of famous Musicians and Bands use ACS’ solutions for In Ear Monitoring.  In last October, ACS had announced the second version of their T15 IEM, which until then, was a “Semi-Custom”. They had completely redesigned it, and it became their first “real” universal IEM. Today, they’ll be the subject of the review.

As always, before we start, here are the specifications of the ACS T15:

Single Balanced Armature

Driver

3.5mm gold plated

Connector

16Hz ~ 20KHz

109 dB

Frequency Response

Sensitivity

26dB with Universal Tips

Noise Isolation

41.5 Ohms

Impedance

Packaging: The T15s come in a small transparent plastic package. The box is divided into two sections; in the upper section, the IEMs are held in a plastic stand, with ACS’ logo is printed, while the lower section contains the carrying case.  Their motto, “Serious About Sound” is placed in several places around the package. In the packaging’s rare side there’s a lot of information about the T15s offerings. There’s a frequency response of the T15s placed there too; it’s very rare to find frequency graph’s on IEMs’ packaging’s, and when there’s a one, I instantly understand that the company which the product is of is very professional.

the tips and the case

Accessories: Provided with the T15s are the following accessories: A small hard shell carrying case, with ACS’ logo embroidered on it. It has two storage sections inside it, which is very useful. In the tips section, there are five silicone tip pairs provided: Three Single-Flanged pairs (Small/Medium/Large), and two pairs of Triple Flanged Tips (Small/Large). The provided tips are the best silicone tips I’ve used to this date; more about that in the “comfort/fit” category. ACS doesn’t provide too much accessories, but the ones which are provided are definitely on point. The rating is 8/10.

the red and blue nozzles

Building Quality and Design: The T15’s driver housings are tiny; its length is less than 1.7cm. It is made fully of sturdy and solid feeling black plastic. On the center of the housings, the logo of Dynamic Ears Company (the company that provides the sound technology of the T15s) is embedded. ACS had chosen to mark the left and right indicators on the nozzles: the right nozzle is red colored and the left nozzle is blue colored. The nozzles are very short and thick, maintaining the housings’ low-profile. There are no strain reliefs in the connection between the cable to the single balanced armature driver; that is a regular Achilles point in IEMs and headphones, and I feel that the lack of strain reliefs is a big shortfall, which I feel should be fixed in the T15’s next batches. On the other hand, the cable is very strong; it is Kevlar reinforced, which makes it feel very strong, without loosing its flexibility. In the cable’s end, there’s an L-shaped 3.5mm jack plastic coated and gold plated. It feels sturdy enough, and unlike the earpieces, it does have a strain relief, even a good one. The rating is 8.5/10.

Comfort/Fit: The T15s’ housings are tiny; the smallest IEMs I had ever seen. They are very light and their plastic texture is very smooth and pleasant to touch. The comfort is great; these IEMs just disappear in your ears. The provided tips (especially the triple flanges) are very good; they’re very soft and they don’t bother my ears at all. The fit is very deep, secure and it stays in the ears without any problem. The rating is 9.5/10.

Isolation and Microphonics: The insertion provided by the T15s is very deep. Because of that, I was a bit disappointed with their isolation. I’d say it’s a bit above average at most. It can’t be compared to Etymotic’s isolation at all. Though, at least they do not state imaginary specifications; the stated isolation level is about 26dB. The microphonics are present in a very big amount when worn straight-down. As always, to lower the amount of the microphonics, over-the-ear wearing style is recommended; the microphonics were still present, but in a smaller amount. The rating is 7.5/10.

Sound Quality: The T15s’ sound-signature is analytical, cold, thick and treble focused, like most of the single balanced armatures. Though, it does have a hidden surprise, which makes it different from most of the other analytical single BAs: Its bass has a very deep extension and it feels quite full and bodied, not anemic.


the measurements of the ACS T15s, placed also on the packaging

The Bass: As I said, the bass is very full and bodied feeling. It’s very deep and it extends very well; it isn’t anemic at all. The clearness, cleanness and the bass control aren’t sacrificed for the bass’ body, and it is very detailed and accurate either. In summary, the bass provided by the T15s isn’t your typical balanced armature provided bass. It seems that the tuning task was done to its fully, and it utilizes almost all of the drivers’ bass abilities.

The Mids: The midrange is very accurate and precise, overall quite flat and uncolored. It is a bit forward, but not in a fatiguing way. The detailing is supreme; every tiny instrument can be heard.

The Treble: The treble has a lot of sparkle together with an amazing clarity and cleanness. Like all of the other frequencies, also the treble is very detailed, revealing micro-details in its very-high-end.

The sound provided by the T15s isn’t boring or dry as the regular BA sound. It isn’t too exciting either, but it manages to be a great all-a-rounder, because every one of its frequencies is doing its job and wasn’t unkempt when the drivers were tuned. The rating is 9/10.

In Conclusion, The T15 contains in its tiny housings marvelous sound and it also has a lot of other benefits as well: It is very well built and it provides great comfort. This is a very good effort from ACS and I look forward to the future, to hear which wonderful universal IEM they’ll have in their possession. The T15 is a great basis for a magnificent future for ACS’ universal IEMs. If they would be able to keep all of the T15s’ benefits and improve the small things which should be (the isolation for example), they’ll have a killer in their hands. The final score is 9/10.

the T15s accompanied by the included case

Pros: Analytical sound with great bass extension and supreme detailing, well built with its sturdy plastic housings, tiny, comfortable, great provided accessories.

Cons: Lack of housing strain reliefs, small accessories amount, average isolation, microphonic cable.

The ACS T15 is MSRP’d at 230$ in the U.S and at 150£ in the U.K. It can be bought through ACS’ web-stores: U.S, U.K.

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One response to “REVIEW: ACS T15 – The Analytic Dwarf

  1. rosieerman 02/04/2012 at 12:45

    It’s just a headphone thing but very cosmic and out of this world conceptional idea for me.The tips look like the missile bullets for me and the sounds were the radioactive weapon. Sounds like I were in the other dimension while listening music with this stuff.

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