These ACS Evolve monitors are gorgeous; to hold, to have, to wear, to feel and, most importantly, to listen to.
This a nice review of the new ACS Evolve universal in ear monitors (IEM) from ACS, who happen to be based in Banbury, not six miles from where I live. The ACS Evolve are the first universal IEMs from ACS based on their custom ranges, ACS usually produce custom monitors (moulded to the ear) for professional artists. These ACS Evolve feature three drivers, a meter long no noise detectable cable and universal memory foam ear pieces and the design is taken from the renowned three driver T1 custom range.
ACS Evolve Design
These in ear monitors are noise isolating, meaning they remove an ambient noise by creating a physical barrier to the outside word using the soft memory foam inserts that go in the ear. There are six pairs of ear inserts for all ear types, they simply peel off and can be replaced or swapped out with ease. ACS suggest you can clean the tips with soap and water which seems eminently sensible.
In respect of inserting the IEMs, they are the usual fiddly process but otherwise no better or worse than others. Ideally you run the cable up your back , roll the wire over your ear and twist in slowly whilst rotating to avoid undue pressures on you ear drum. There is a little plastic ‘pull’ to secure the wires to back of you head but to be honest I’ve just been wearing them normally at the desk with a headphone amplifier.
The monitors themselves have a detachable cable system . It is called Linum® Audio Cable, developed with a Dutch company. This ACS Linum® Audio Cable is 1.45m but what sets the cable apart from the crowd is the way it is constructed, each cable is made up of 6 litz wire conductors of 7 individual strands. Each strand is silver plated copper with enamel coating ensuring no colouration of the sound and a reliable connection. The cable casing is very low noise so does not scratch and induce noise in the ear, this is a frequent problem but it works here. ACS claim the cable casing will not corrode or change colour through the life cycle of the cable.
Compiled from the box and the site
No. of Drivers 3 balanced armature drivers with 3 crossovers
Cable Exit Options Top (over-ear)
Cable Type Detachable Linum BaX cable and socket system
Standard Cable Length 1.45m (my pair are measured at 1.55cm!)
Noise Reduction -26dB (isolated ear reduction)
Standard Connector Low profile 3.5mm straight plug (this is the right angle version I think, mine is certainly)
Frequency Range 20hz-20Khz
Sensitivity @ 1Khz 119.9 db
Impedance @ 1Khz 50 ohms (quite high for portable IEMs but perfectly acceptable)
Items Included Carry pouch (sturdy and soft feel with two pouches inside)
These ACS Evolve monitors are gorgeous; to hold, to have, to wear, to feel and, most importantly, to listen to. The build quality is evident, as you may expect at £300 a pair!
Boxed, the ACS Evolve come in lovely packaging and are presented nicely, the ‘instructions’, such as they are printed on the slip packaging so there are no daft tiny manual to annoy you. It was a simple matter for me to put the smallest buds on and get going pretty quickly.
The carry pouch is hard, has a couple of small pockets for things like Airplane adaptors or 6.5mm adaptors (not supplied). Final comment, I’ve had these in and out of the pouch and I have no tangly issues which can sometimes be so frustrating when you’re trying to put on IEMs.
I thought it would be better to run the IEMs in a bit, overnight with my Atlas Cables burn in CD on repeat, and sure enough in the morning the ACS Evolves were more relaxed than straight out of the box. I’ve had a good listen to these with an Acoustic Research UA1 headphone amplifier with my MAC, with a Naim NAC-N 272 (both required an adaptor to 6.5mm) and on the move with a Nexus 6P smartphone. The release of the Sgt. Pepper 50th Anniversary edition has given the headphones a real workout.
Acoustic Research UA1 headphone amplifier
Using J River software on the MAC it was time to dig out some reference music and see where the lay of the land was. The headphones are clearly a step up from my usual in ears. I will always listen to Jamie Cullum’s ‘Gran Torino’ and Jeff Buckley’s ‘Hallelujah’ to listen for resolution and sure enough this a beautiful sound. Cullum’s piano is almost perfect and the huskiness in his voice is just pure music.
If Jamie Cullum’s piano is perfect, take a listen to Rodrigo y Gabriela’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ to hear crispy guitar and fret detail and you will confirm for yourself you are listening to a high quality product.
The soundstage is, for me, right between my eyes, slightly more forward than I expected but it is fine. The sound is dominant and powerful but at the right volume is totally immersive, this review has taken twice as long as it should have done!
The bass is soft and rounded, there is no real thud, I’ve been enjoying ‘3WW’ from Alt-J’s ‘Relaxer’, indeed the guitars are beautiful in this track too. Otherwise, I would not call these headphones , or IEMs, bright by any means but they are just crisp and elegant and very easy on the ear.
I just wanted to add that London Grammar’s new track ‘Big Picture’ is a perfect piece of ethereal music and these IEMs immerse you in the moment wonderfully, I can’t wait for the album.
On the move with the Nexus 6P
Next it was time to cut the grass, a generally noisey experience that require ears defenders ideally so I thought I would use the noise isolation from the Evolves and see how I got on. At this point I did run the cable up my back from my back pocket, pull the cord to fix the IEMs and I was very happy, secure and untroubled. The isolation was really very good, obviously critical listening goes out of the window but the music was audible over the background noise and very satisfying. In a quieter corner of the garden I listened for resolution with the Nexus playing a high quality download copy of Ryan Adams’ ‘Carnegie Hall’ recording and all the detail I wanted was there, the Evolves complimenting the Nexus comfortably.
The key to this experience was the buds didn’t fall out every two minutes and there was no undue noise from the cable. Comfort was fine after prolonged listening. Note that I had no phone calls and there is no microphone with these IEMs.
I would not hesitate to recommend these to anyone who has the means to afford them
I just think these IEMs are as good as it gets on the move really. With a good fit the noise isolation is excellent and so lower volumes are available. This increases comfort with prolonged listening. And with no tangling on the cables, or transferred noise from them I am very happy with all of the usual IEM bugbears removed. I would not hesitate to recommend these to anyone who has the means to afford them. I believe there is a five driver version (called Emotion) and the only question outstanding is how on earth do they get the electronics in there?
More information from ACS here.
The Evolve (3 Driver) is £400
The Emotion (5 Driver) is £800