Performance & Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Editors choice
1

Summary

Our Score:

10

Thankfully all this hard work isn't blown when you plug the ACS T15 in. They use just a single driver, have a decent frequency response of 16Hz ~ 20KHz and slightly high impedance of 41.5 Ohms. But while these are mostly familiar figures, as with counting megapixels or megahertz, they far from tell the whole story. Instead it is the sound signature which comes to the fore and here it is truly remarkable what ACS has managed to squeeze out of a single driver.

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First and foremost, the expanse of the sound is unlike anything we've ever heard before from a single driver. It really is no exaggeration to say these deliver the sort of performance we would normal expect required at least two drivers per earpiece. Treble doesn't quite extend as far as we might like, but for the price they're astonishing. Bass, meanwhile, is just right. Many single-driver sets either crank up the bass and sound muffled or cut it altogether for the utmost in high-end sparkle. The T15s manage to get a good balance between the two. The soundstage is also surprisingly large, giving a satisfying spacious feel to your music.

All this combines to make the T15 excel with the subtlety of classical and acoustic music, as well as the bombast of hard rock, dance or hip hop. In other words, they're the perfect all-rounders.

Quibbles? Very few. Given the single driver the T15 performs best when you crank up the volume on heavier tracks, and in this regard they do benefit slightly from being amped (as in fairness do all earphones and headphones), but it's by no means a requirement.

Conversely the beauty of the fit and isolation is you don't need to hurt your ears just to distinguish your music from environmental noise. A perfect example is on the London Underground where 50 per cent volume on an iPhone 4S was all that was needed to silence the rumbling of the tracks. In fact on exiting Piccadilly Circus we didn't realise we had walked past a busker until we were half way up an escalator. If anything ACS has done itself out of one lucrative part of its business: custom moulds. Custom moulds for the T15 cost £90, but we suspect that for the vast majority they will be unnecessary. In this age of phones replacing MP3 players it would also be nice to see the T15 made with a mic option to answer and end calls, and stop or start music.

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We say 'option' here because we wouldn't expect it at the T15's RRP. £149.99 is a snip for earphones that can match rivals at twice the price. The gauntlet has been thrown down, affordable earphones just leapt to a whole new level.

Verdict

The ACS T15 trumps vastly more expensive rivals and blows away the competition in its price range. Runners will find the small design and superb silicon tips deliver a fit that doesn't slip, frequent travellers will love the noise isolation that means they don't need to ratchet up the volume to hear their music and the flush finish means some people could even wear them in bed. Build quality is also superb with a Kevlar reinforced cable that keeps cable noise to a minimum and is as durable as anything we have seen. There are a few minor tweaks we'd make but for the price we really can't complain. ACS has done it again. Rivals should be afraid. Very afraid.

Overall Score

10

Scores In Detail

  • Design & Features 8
  • Sound Quality 9
  • Value 10

Alvin

November 10, 2011, 5:02 pm

heya,

Based only on durability the cable, what would be better? this kevlar bonded cable or something like a pair of Shure Se215's with their detachable cables?

Thanks

ostehaps

November 15, 2011, 8:07 pm

Gordon,
How do these compare to the Shure range in terms of sound? In terms of price they are closest to the SE315, is that also the closest in sound, or do they trump them?

Thanks,
Mikael

David 33

November 30, 2011, 12:47 am

Well, these proved extremely difficult to track down, but DJMMusic had them for sale at £159, which was £10 more than the price quoted in the review. The packaging seemed cheap (and fiddly) for a fairly premium pair of phones. Initial impressions weren't favourable: difficult to get an optimum seal with either the triple-flanged or single buds and the treble was harsher than I expected. I compared them with both my gold standard Shure SE535 and my gym-buddy Soundmagic E10: not surprisingly the SE535s blew them away with pretty much the first chord; and even the E10s were easier on the ear both in terms of fit and sound. So, it's a thumbs down from me and back to DJMMusic for a refund.

Kate1

January 5, 2012, 8:42 pm

I have to concur with Dave 33 about the sound quality of these. I've tried them over a range of classical, pop and rock, and found that the treble is shrill and scratchy and the mid-range lacks warmth and depth. They sound like a fuzzy, old-fashioned record player. I asked for them for Christmas on the strength of this review, but I'd strongly advise anyone else to choose a different product: these are ghastly. They don't have a volume or track control either, which is pretty poor in earphones in this price range.

Georgio169

July 19, 2013, 8:03 pm

I must urge all those who believe this product is good to think again, after ordering these from the offical website, acscustom.com which was broken and i had to order them over the phone for $230. These earphones instantly looked like you could buy them for 3$ at a local corner shop. i disregarded myself and listened to Radioactive and realised my gut instinct was correct, they sound EXACTLY like $3 earphones, everything was shrill and terrible! i am currently in the process of a refund, please divert your eyes from these earphones and please take a look at these fantastic earphones which i should of bought to replace the ones i broke a few weeks ago

David123

October 5, 2013, 11:04 am

These need time to break in, and the sound really does develop. Like all good headphones you cant expect the best sound out of the box. I left mine to just play for a few days connected to my amp before listening. I have had mine for about two years now and they sound great, much better than my mates shure 315 and half the size and no weight. They are warm and clear, there is no harshness at all. I have never had a problem with the seal, using the black tips but there are a range provided for all ear shapes.

Alex

November 1, 2013, 4:46 pm

I'm with David123, I've had mine for about 1.5 years now and they are truly fantastic. I previously had a pair of Klipsch Image X10is which I loved at the time, but they kept breaking over and over again due to the flimsy cables and joins so after an obscene amount of research I bought these. They are so much more subtle, which would explain why so many people find them lacking warmth in the mid-range. But they are also unforgiving - if you are listening to either a poor recording (so so common nowadays) or low quality file or a low powered device then they will disappoint (note the review says these have a high impedance - that means they need higher voltage but lower current to drive them) - possibly a reason why people found the treble shrill. Having left them to bed in for 48 hours, I read some more and ended up buying the JDS Labs Bass Boost cMoy v2.03 Headphone Amplifier and some Comply foam tips. I have not heard anything like the sound these tiny things produce. Very accurate, not too bassy and plenty of mid-range. If you're sending these back within a week then you haven't given them enough of a chance. Experiment with tips (including the comply) and power them properly and you'll reap the audible rewards...

Dessum

January 13, 2014, 5:10 pm

David 33, Kate1, Georgio169 are all correct. I am currently on my second pair after my first pair broke and these have just broken too, in exactly the same way (the left piece is now far quieter than the right). The sound has always been terrible - very muddy and squashed. Easily beaten by my $50 headphones. (I've even been using them with my custom ACS earmoulds). Whatever you do stay away from this terrible product. I find it hard to believe this reviewer and I are discussing the same product.

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