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Thursday / September 20.

ACS Earphones

In the 1970s, Andy Shiach was an ambitious musician. However, an ear trauma incident, in a rehearsal studio, put paid to his musical ambition. Shiach’s ambition wasn’t thwarted though, and after study and research he would go on to found a company that’s been quietly making inroads in the competitive world of headphones.

ACS make high end professional ear-protectors as well as earphones and kit for live bands. Now that consumers are starting to demand higher-end listening experiences, ACS have launched versions of their professional equipment, for the rest of us.

There are three models in the 2017 new range and I tested the top of the range Emotion. Opening the box reveals the earphones and their compact, hard shell storage case. There are also six sets of different sized foam tips if you need to change them for a more snug fit.

One of the first things that stand out is the ACS earphone cable. Two, robust twisted strands extend 1.45 meters, meaning there’s no stretching or tugging of a short cable as you stretch or move. The cable is also detachable. It’s easy to plug the cable out of each earphone for storage and for replacement or maintenance of an individual earbud.

They earphones are a little bigger than the lower cost ones I’m used to wearing. That said, the pair weigh only 20 grams, and fit so well, it’s easy to forget they’re there. Puttin them on was also a first for me. These are actually in-ear monitors rather than standard earphones, and that means you wear them a little differently. After pushing them gently in to the ear, you twist them backwards slightly to ensure they fit snugly. The cable is looped over your ear, and down your back to your phone or MP3 player.

As soon as the little twist secures them in your ears, the world goes a little quiet and you know that you’ve isolated intrusive outside sounds. This design feature is at the heart of what ACS do. By removing the intrusion of outside sounds, you get more of your music and can listen at a lower volume, helping to keep your ears safe over time.

I plugged the earphones in and selected some music from Tidal. Instantly, I realised that these earphones are different to others I’ve tested. The warmth of the sound is almost disconcerting at first. The five armature drivers in these earphones mean that the clarity and definition is as obvious as it is pleasing. If you’re a jazz fan you’re in for a treat, as wind instruments sounded exceptional through these earphones. I tried jazz, pop and some classical music. All sounded exceptional and not just crisp and well defined, but luscious and immersive.

I’m listen to radio plays and audio books, and was curious how these would sound. Again, the isolating of outside noise gave me more of the program I listened to. As well as that, I discovered that drama producers are a clever bunch, using the left and right channels for different effects. Discovering new sounds and effects in drama is one thing, but I’m sure I heard more than one musician breathing as I listened to album after album.

Using the headphones for week, I discovered that the foam earbuds have a kind of memory foam property and they got more comfortable, and more snug as I listened. Earbuds can retain bacteria over time, and ACS have made the little buds removable and they can be washed.

It took me a while to get used to fitting the earbuds, and more than once early on in the test one of them would feel fall loose. However, I changed the foam bud for a larger one and once I got used to and comfortable with the ear placement they remained rock solid.

More info at: acscustom.com

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Andy O'Donoghue talks about technology, some say, too much.

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