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Advancing the state of the art for in-ear headphones, at a lower price

The 1964 Ears V6-Stage is a tour de force of in-ear headphone design, and they're hand-crafted in Portland, Ore.

The 1964 Ears V6-Stage headphones 1964 Ears

When I first reviewed the 1964 Ears V6custom in-ear headphones earlier this year I not only loved the sound, I got the distinct feeling the company tries harder to please its customers than other custom in-ear makers. For example, 1964 Ears V6-Stage headphones are sold with a longer warranty (two years) and lower prices than the flagship models from more established high-end headphone competitors. 1964 Ears doesn't make universal-fit in-ear headphones, all of their designs are custom-molded to your ears for the best possible fit and maximum isolation from external noise. The headphones are hand-crafted by 1964 Ears technicians in their Portland, OR facility. They offer an extensive range of custom color options, wood, metal, or carbon-fiber faceplates, and a 30 day fit guarantee. The company will adjust or even re-make your headphones at no extra cost to provide the best possible fit and comfort for up to 30 days after you receive the headphones. Prices start at $350 for the 1964-D headphones.

1964 Ears can put custom art on your headphones 1964 Ears

The V6-Stage is a "three-way" design with six balanced-armature drivers (dual bass, dual midrange, and dual treble). 1964 Ears claims the V6-Stage's latest generation of drivers are custom-made for the company, and they're not used by other manufacturers. Impedance is rated at 22 ohms, which is about average for this type of headphone. The V6-Stage comes with 50- or 64-inch user-replaceable cables. Before you buy a custom-molded in-ear headphone you need to first visit a local audiologist to have impressions of your ear canals made, which are then used to build your headphones. Most audiologists charge from $75 to $100 to make the molds, but you can't beat custom in-ears for fit and isolation from external noise.

Comparing the still available 1964 V6 to the V6-Stage, it's clear the 'Stage has deeper and higher definition bass. That's particularly impressive because most brands' extra-bass headphone models' definition suffers and turns muddy. Not this time, there's more and deeper bass, and if anything it's tighter and more precise bass. Even so, the standard V6's bass balance is more accurate, but most folks will probably prefer the 'Stage's extra bass kick, including me, I'd definitely go with the 'Stage. You can really feel the power of drums more on this headphone, the dynamic jolts are stronger, cymbals and high percussion instruments sound more lifelike.

The headphones can rock out, but how does it sound with classical music? Quite nice; the V6-Stage sounds sweet and lovely when the program material demands it. The headphone digs deep into the more subtle elements of a recording, so I heard stuff like the singers' breaths and the instruments' textures. Again and again I found myself totally engrossed by the music, so much so I'd forget to takes notes as I listened, and that's always a good sign.

The V6-Stage comes with a watertight, crushproof travel case. 1964 Ears

The $1,099 JH Audio Freqphase JH-13 has been my in-ear reference for a while, so I was curious to see how the V6-Stage would hold up in a direct comparison. Turns out the JH 13 is an even more transparent-sounding design, the V6-Stage has softer focused imaging, and details from the deepest bass to the highest treble frequencies aren't quite on par with those on the JH-13. I can't say the difference is huge, but it's definitely noticeable. Still, the JH-13 is nearly double the price of the V6-Stage, which is normally $699. Right now it's on sale for $599, but that offer ends October 1.