Ambient Acoustics MAD 24 – Insanely Musical
Ambient Acoustics MAD 24 is an in-ear monitor priced at 3499 USD, designed with 24 balanced armature drivers, under the Main Audio Destination naming scheme, and which is quickly gathering recognition in the Audiophile World. Given the price point, they have to be compared to pretty much every single other flagship IEM, including CTM Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci X (2400 USD), Unique Melody MEST MK2 IEMs (1500 USD), Lime Ears Aether R (1400 USD), Final Audio A8000 (2400 USD), Audeze Euclid (1300 USD), Campfire Ara (1300 USD), Fir Audio VxV (999 USD), and Oriveti OV800 (999 USD). I will also be pairing the MAD 24 with the best sources I have on hand, including iBasso DX300 (1200 USD), Lotto PAW 6000 (1200 USD), Astell & Kern SE180 (1500 USD), Dethonray DTR1+ (1000 USD), and Astell & Kern SP2000T (2500 USD). I will also be taking notes on the matching with the Plussound Copper+ Cable (999 USD), STE Cu W16 (400 USD), and Effect Audio EVO 1 (440 USD)
Ambient Acoustics is one of the greatest titanic companies from Ukraine, a country that’s home to some of the best audio engineers and designers out there. Even the Romanian company Meze gets their drivers for the Empyrean from Ukraine, from Rinanro Acoustics, basically sourcing the most important component of their killer headphones there. Back to Ambient Acoustics, they are known for making summit-fi level custom monitors for singers, artists, as well as hearing protection aids. The company took shape in 2009, and since then they’ve been making both hearing aids and professional audio products, and they had success in the past as well with a series of IEMS under the LAM naming. We know that they make reliable IEMs, as no one ever complained about one of their IEMs breaking. Unfortunately, due to the current tragic situation in Ukraine, the company had to pause the production of those IEMs, but you can always contact them and make a preorder, as they aren’t out of business, and for the time being have reverted back to the professional, hearing aid and hearing protection segments, producing ingenious products to keep their people safe. At the moment of writing today’s review, MAD24 is the record IEM world wide as far as the number of drivers inside a single IEM goes, so it will be interesting to see how it stands its ground against other popular choices for audiophiles and music lovers.
It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Ambient Acoustics, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I’d like to thank Ambient Acoustics for providing the sample for this review. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it. The purpose of this review is to help those interested in Ambient Acoustics’ Main Audio Destination MAD 24 IEMs find their next music companion.
Official Link: https://ambient-acoustics.ua/124/eng/index.html
You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3MNeCio
If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/38QOh4n
And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3PKosU4
First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:
The package of MAD 24 is actually uniquely designed, and the usage of an orange logo for MAD24 reminds slightly of another popular website for entertainment, most probably Amazon. Unfortunately, Ambient Acoustics has to make those by hand, and they aren’t yet available on Amazon, at the moment the company being unable to produce new IEMs, although hopefully they’ll be back in business, because the package of MAD 24 is actually pretty good for a Summit Fi IEM, comparable to how the package of Audeze LCD-5 is downright impressive. Inside the package of MAD 24, we have:
- Main Audio Destination MAD 24 IEMs
- 1.2 meters, 3.5mm Single Ended Cable
- Genuine Leather Case
- Silicone Tips – 3 Pairs
- Cleaning Cloth
- Special case for the tips
- Silica bag for keeping the IEMs dry
- 3.5 to 6.3mm adapter
Starting with the build quality, MAD 24 is a Main Audio Destination IEM, they are built to last, relying on 2-Pin connectors for keeping cable compatibility, and a high quality resin body for best long-term reliability. The outer shell is beautifully designed with pink and purple nuances, but this is just the pair that I’m seeing, and which many other reviewers managed to see and hear. You can order a pair with any finish and designed you desire, and if you head to Head-Fi, there’ve been other folks who ordered theirs with a customized design, and you can get MAD24 eleven in a custom shell, to have improved comfort and ergonomics for your ears, although you’d be losing a bit in resale value.
The inside of the IEMS is even more impressive than the faceplate and the outer design, as MAD24 is designed with a complex set of low pass filters and inner tubes, 3D printed to have the best sonic performance possible. The drivers inside are perfectly matched, and I can detect no difference between the left and the right shell, and while this may sound like something you’d expect from a high-end IEM, it is much harder to match 24 drivers with other 24 drivers, than to match two drivers with each other, the complexity of creating MAD24 being significantly higher than most of the competition.
We have unique technologies too, including ANOR oir Acoustic Notch resonator, which is basically an acoustic piece filter that acts as an electric crossover / shelf filter that cuts off the resonance part of the sound, and eliminates what we typically perceive as fatiguing and sibilant. The company actually nailed this pretty well, and MAD24 has what I could call the most natural sound among the flagships, but we’ll explore more about this in the sound part of today’s review. Speaking of unique technologies embedded in MAD24, we also have SOER, or Sound Occlusion Effect Reduction, basically a way of reducing the increased pressure usually found in Balanced Armature-Only designs, and giving MAD24 an open, free sound that’s never fatiguing, and reducing the amount of void you feel when wearing them.
There can be no trace of driver flex, since MAD24 is based on Balanced Armatures only, but those are usually quite void-prone and have a less comfortable fit. The passive noise isolation is as good as you’d expect from a company that makes hearing aids and hearing protection, and I’m loudly typing the review but can hear only the music quietly playing in my ears. To get the best passive noise isolation, and lowest leakage possible, it is best to ask Ambient Acoustics for a custom variation, which will get your ears, literally, like a glove. Having no crossover eliminates the complexity of the design a lot, and the crossover is one of the parts that can go wrong in a complex setup, but at the same time this means that Ambient Acoustics either orders those drivers from a very competent third party, or designs / changes the drivers themselves for best compatibility between drivers and frequency response.
The Ukrainian company quotes a really low impedance of 2.3 OHMs, but I think that’s a misspelling, and that they meant 23 OHMs, because at 2.3 OHMs of impedance, MAD24 would hiss like crazy with most sources, but they sound just fine from all of the portables I tried pairing them with. They’re even drivable from entry-level dongle DACs like ddHifi TC44C, or Hiby FC5. The Sensitivity is rated at 118 dB, which seems about right, as they get extremely loud easily, and don’t need a lot of power. I got to test how well MAD 24 handles over voltage, clipping and over volume too, and man, I was scared because I thought they got destroyed. Questyle M15 has a really stupid way of working, where it doesn’t start up unless you have something plugged in, and it is plugged in, and if music is playing. On windows, it starts at 100% volume, and that’s how it started with MAD24. The IEMs survived, but I’m never connecting M15 to PC again, and the review for it shall include a warning in multiple spots, so no poor soul won’t burn his IEMs / Headphones, not everything is as sturdily designed as Main Audio Destination 24.
MAD 24 has 4 drivers powering the infra lows and the lows, 8 drivers powering the midrange, 8 drivers powering the upper midrange and 4 drivers powering the treble and the ultra high treble. This being said, this entire setup is filtered passively by the ANOR Stage, which changes the sound heavily compared to my initial expectations, and leads to a very down-to-ear sound from MAD24, which I’d have expected to sound rather bright and fatiguing given the price point. Without further ado, let’s begin with the sonic quality part of the review.
Speaking of the sound quality, I’ve used only the best sources to power Ambient Acoustics MAD24, including iBasso DX300, iBasso dX240, Astell & Kern SE180, Astell & Kern SP2000T, Lotoo PAW 6000, QLS QA361, and they have a very coherent sound. MAD 24 does scale with the source, but it has a general defined signature that’s stable, and its impedance is high enough for the sonic performance / presentation to not vary heavily with the source, so MAD24 will sound similar across sources, at least signature-wise. I expected MAD24 to change heavily in resolution, dynamics and overall clarity with the source, and this actually does happen, as it inherits the qualities and characteristics of the source powering it heavily. DAPs such as PAW 6000 and SE180 from Astell & Kern are the best for driving MAD 24, while entry-level dongles, you name it, will have a similar frequency response, but lack the clarity, refinement and resolution of a high-end DAP.
The sound of MAD 24 can be described as incredibly natural, clean and open. The bass is really deep and clean with superb overall volume and richness, while the midrange is wide, clean and has super good depth as well. MAD 24 is unique in its presentation, because while other flagships such as A8000 go for the ultimate clarity and resolution, MAD 24 goes for a really natural and pleasing sound with superb richness and a thick, deep bass. In fact, this is something that you’ll notice quickly if you’re into high-end and summit-fi IEMs, they are usually tuned for the neutral tuning lovers, such as those who’ve been enthusiastic about HD800, and HD800S or Beyerdynamic T1, but many of us, who are into high-end IEMS and Headphones, also want a rich, full, deep bass.
The bass of MAD 24 is a huge highlight for them, as this is one of the very few IEMs that manage to have such impactful, deep and well-controlled low end extension and impact, with superb fullness and a rich presentation. MAD 24 is the basshead summit-fi IEM that you can purchase in 2022, and I’m saying this after having heard most flagships out there, either having reviewed them officially, or having heard them from friends who’re into music quite a bit. MAD 24 has the fullest, deepest and bassiest signature of the flagships, it presents music with extreme amounts of impact, but it stays controlled and distortion-free, or at least it reveals how the music was mastered well. I noticed that it has the highest speed for the bass as well, from most IEMs I tested, so if the song material has distortions or other problems, MAD24 will reveal it really quickly, while if the song is mastered properly, MAD 24 will open a gate for your inner child to enjoy a rock show or an EDM track like it’s the first one you’ve ever heard. For example, Unlike Pluto – 8 Legged dreams is a song that has very subtle low regressions and peaks, fine nuances, despite being an electronic song, and MAD 24 is ready to display every single one of those intricacies right in the ears of the listener. Many new details in this song become much more apparent, like the multiple layers of echo Unlike Pluto applies to his voice to create this ethereal feeling of being half asleep and daydreaming, leading the listener exactly where he wanted him to be.
The midrange of MAD 24 is also surprisingly clean, detailed, but also very natural. I can’t emphasize this enough, but as I loved Audeze LCD-5 for its clean and crisp midrange, I love MAD 24 for their smooth, rich and totally correct midrange. We can hear a very fine nuanced emphasis on the lower midrange that gives music a voluptuous body, rich presentation with tons of impact, while the soundstage is designed to be natural, with a natural width and depth. I love the way MAD 24 is able to render multiple instruments with perfect precision and clarity, even at very high volumes. Most IEMs and Headphones have a volume where they sound best, while MAD 24 is perfectly balanced for all volumes, having a rich, thick and pleasing signature at low volumes, and becoming more open, wider and clearer and high volumes, getting better dynamics and clarity the louder you go. It tempts me to give it more juice and to bring the decibels higher in my ears, and while I know it can’t be very healthy, the saying goes that the good things in life are either expensive, unhealthy or make you a thicc boii. MAD 24 has superb dynamics and control, to the point where if you’re listening to a classical piece, the dynamic range alone can startle you. This being said, I’m testing it with a song I know and with a song that’s post hardcore, “Dance Gavin Dance – Pop Off!” The overall clarity is superb, and MAD 24 places good emphasis on the bassline and the overall substance / body of the song, giving Tillian’s voice a really pleasing resonance and outline, while the guitars are superb fully outlined from each other, the background being very distinct compared to the foreground instrument presentation. John Mess’s voice sounds as aggressive and energetic as always, but MAD 24’s anti-harshness system works quite well, as the song has no trace of fatigue or harshness. The cymbals play slightly shily in the background, without fatiguing or intruding on the listener and his inner peace. At the subjective level, the song is extremely musical and fluid, with no hard edges, MAD 24 having a really smooth presentation for textures, yet presenting them rather than erasing them as most smooth signature IEMs tend to do. MAD 24 is indeed insanely musical, just as I wrote in the title, being in the top 3 headphones and IEMS in terms of musicality that I’ve heard my entire life.
The stereo imaging is so good with MAD 24, that you hear more separation, as it was done in the mix, than with most IEMs. A zero crossfeed policy is perfect if you want to get exactly the precise results of the music as it was recorded in the studio, but this also means that you may get confused at times. For example, Infant Annihilator – Decapitation Fornication has most of its cymbal crashes and strong cymbal energy on the right ear, which makes you think that something is wrong, while using MAD 24, but other songs such as KillWhitneyDead – Tyrant Enthroned, has most of the treble energy balanced, and slowly in the left side of the stereo field, which is quite obvious and audible with MAD 24. This is what a true performer monitor and In-Ear Monitor should be like, perfectly revealing what’s in the song, trying to convey a perfect image of the song as it was recorded. This makes MAD 24 one of the most revealing IEMs I’ve heard to date, but at the same time it means that it will always have this Studio kind of soundstage that is femtosecond precise, but doesn’t go overboard in width, and doesn’t get any kind of crossfeed from the other channel.
The treble inherits the smoothness and softer presentation from the midrange, and while the upper midrange tends to have a very clean presentation that’s fatigue-free, the same happens to the lower treble, and MAD24 never gets on my nerves, being enjoyable and fun to listen to both after a full day of work, but also early in the morning. There’s nothing quite like a fully musical IEM that gets the midrange tonality right and the timing perfectly, and this is a point I need to make about MAD 24. The company and the people there are real geniuses, they managed to sort out 24 drivers with zero coherency issues. The coherency of MAD 24 is better than that of some dynamic driver flagships, and it doesn’t even have any crossover, so the company knew how to match the drivers perfectly, and keep them matched. I’m pleased and I have to announce early that MAD 24 will be receiving a place in Audiophile-Heaven’s Hall Of Fame, for its perfect coherency, beautiful musicality, and rich, full, deep low end.
To leave the sonic part on a high note, I chose a really fatiguing song to test the treble and the ability of MAD 24 of both rendering cymbals, but also stay fatigue-free with fairly fatiguing material, so I went with Pacifist – Happiness. Since I already included a song from Infant Annihilator, I wanted something that’s as mathcore / grindcore as possible, all while being harshly recorded. MAD24 proves superb control for the song, and the treble / cymbals are really clean, well extended, and there’s a lot of air between instruments, while the guitars are clean, almost as if I’m holding the amplifier in my hands and listening to the raw sound that’s being played on it. The voice in the song of Pacifist is also emotional, having just the right amount of torture, and musicality, MAD 24 blending the solo perfectly, and creating that beautiful melody that people have been praising in the comments of this song for years.
If you’re more old school, Metallica – St. Anger, a song that’s always been criticized for being harsh and fatiguing, also for getting dangerously close to clipping, sounds perfectly controlled, musical and smooth on MAD 24. I’m surprised at how smooth, clean and crisp the cymbals can be, all at the same time. MAD 24 is magical, it manages to render those cymbal crashes with energy, but they’re never fatiguing or harsh, it keeps them behind the midrange, the voices and the guitars, all while giving the treble a full and rich presentation, opposed to the usual thin and kind of splashy presentation that high-end IEMs tend to go for. The bass is surely a central element in the song, and MAD 24 does a perfect job at driving the bass guitar closer to the listener in St. Anger, giving the whole song a full, rich and bountiful presentation.
Ambient Acoustics Main Audio Destination MAD24 vs Audeze Euclid (3499 USD vs 1300 USD) – The technology in those two IEMs is very different, with Euclid being a planar IEM with tons of potential, and a really bright, clean sound that’s detailed and sharp, while MAD 24 is a smooth and rich performer. The package is better on MAD24, as it comes with a better carrying case, better cable, but the comfort is actually better on Euclid which has a smaller footprint. The overall sound is really laid back and smooth on MAD 24, which comes through as much more relaxing and natural, especially in the midrange, where Euclid sounds sharper, more focused. Euclid has a wider soundstage, with more space between instruments, while MAD 24 sounds more precise in the instrument placement. The overall clarity is comparable, and MAD 24 manages to render certain details a bit better, especially in the bass and lower midrange, while Eucliud has better resolution and revealing ability in the upper midrange and treble. If you fancy a sharper, more precise sounding IEM, Euclid makes more sense here, while if you prefer a richer, deeper, heavier sounding IEM with a more natural midrange, MAD24 would be the logical choice here.
Ambient Acoustics Main Audio Destination MAD24 vs Campfire Ara (3499 USD vs 1300 USD) – We have a really outstanding competitor here, but we have to give the package points to MAD 24 for having a better package, better default cable, where ARA has better tip selection from the factory. The comfort is better on Campfire Ara which has a smaller body size and will fit those with small ears better. The overall build quality is comparable between them, but Ara is made of metal while MAD 24 is made of resin. The sound is extremely different between the two, with Ara being really revealing, clean and clear, with a strong focus on details, clarity and overall resolution. MAD 24 has a much stronger focus on bass, the correct timbre of music, and richness of the mids and lows, giving a much bolder, stronger sound with more bass emphasis. ARA sounds brighter, lighter, snappier, but also thinner by comparison. MAD 24 is much heavier in sound, which gives it much more impact. At the detail level, there are certain details in the treble that Ara highlights better, but MAd 24 doesn’t lose in raw detail performance, having the ability to present those details, but quieter, smoother and blended better than Ara, which is a master of instrument separation. The sound of Ara resembles a live performance more, while MAD 24 resembles a really high-end studio with good acoustic treatment. Both are good deals at this moment.
Ambient Acoustics Main Audio Destination MAD24 vs Fir Audio VxV (3499 USD vs 999 USD) – We have two IEMs that go for a similar signature here, as VxV goes for a very similar signature compared to MAD 24, and the package is better on MAD24, with a better default cable, but with larger IEM shells to make space for the drivers, so VxV is a bit more comfortable for long term usage. The sound is actually similar between them, and if I had to make a choice between them, it would be a hard choice, MAD 24 has a deeper, richer, heavier sound with more impact, more treble extension, and a more natural midrange, also more musicality and more details, but a higher price too. You could consider VxV to sound like a mini MAD 24, they have similar presentations, but at high volumes, MAD 24 remains more controlled, less fatiguing, yet more detailed and more dynamic. It is interesting how the sound of MAD 24 is tuned to be like, and the engineer in me itches to ask for blueprints or to open the IEM to understand how the passive filter in them works, to give them such a detailed, yet smooth and laid back sound. You can totally put in MAD 24 and forget about everything else, they’ll be fun and you’ll forget how time flies.
Ambient Acoustics Main Audio Destination MAD24 vs Oriveti OV800 (3499 USD vs 999 USD) – I just reviewed OV800, so I thought it would be a good idea to compare them to MAD24, the package being similar between them, and slightly better on MAD 24. The overall cable quality is better on MAD24, but the comfort is slightly better on OV800, as they have a smaller body. Both IEMs sound best with the Azla Xelastec Tips included by default with OV800. The tuning is extremely different, and even at its bassiest, OV800 is much brighter, has less bass and less richness in the lows compared to MAD 24. OV800 sounds more sparkly and more airy, better for rock and metal, but if you’re easily fatigued, MAD 24 is much smoother, richer and less fatiguing than OV800. MAD 24 also has a bit more detail, especially in the lows, and in bass guitars, which is surprising when you consider the overall resolution and detail of OV800, which is one of the most revealing IEMs in the price point they’re at. MAD 24 is more musical, more natural in the midrange (well, OV800 is V-Shaped), but the price is also higher. If you know you like U shaped or V Shaped signatures, OV800 makes a more obvious choice, and reminds a lot of the more splashy, traditional V shaped sound that IE800 used to have, while MAD 24 is something new entirely, it has the warmth, richness and naturalness of high-end tower speakers, but it is relaxing and never loses its calm, being able to render even extremely complex passages, multiple layers of guitars, like those in Wintersun songs, and generally sounds more rich and natural, also more musical.
Ambient Acoustics Main Audio Destination MAD24 vs Lime Ears Aether R (3499 USD vs 1400 USD) – Aether R comes with a similar package quality to MAD 24, but it also has a lower quality cable from default, the cable of MAD 24 feeling better. The carrying case is great on both, both are comfortable, and Aether R has a configurable switch, which you can use to tune them directly. The overall comfort is comparable, Aether R is slightly smaller in size and shape, but they are compatible for my ears in terms of ergonomics and comfort. The overall sonic performance is considerably more deep and heavier on MAD24, which has better bass depth, a richer low end, and more impact. The detail level is considerably higher on MAD24, which manages to reveal many intricacies from music, especially at loud volumes, and the midrange sounds more natural, as there’s a specific peak and a dip in the mids of Aether R that makes it more colored in tuning. Both IEMs are still great purchases, as each comes at a different price point, and Aether R is less than half the price of MAD 24, but after you hear MAD 24, it is really complicated to go back, as the kind of natural midrange combined with super heavy drums, and realistic impact it provides is really hard to forget. The treble level is similar between the two, although MAD 24 has a better extension, and despite being less fatiguing, manages to reveal a bit more detail in the highs.
Ambient Acoustics Main Audio Destination MAD24 vs Final Audio A8000 (3499 USD vs 2400 USD) – We have two real summit-fi IEMS here, and the package is actually comparable between them, but Final Audio packages a better default cable than Ambient Acoustics, yet the overall shell comfort is better on MAD24, which is derived from a custom IEM, while A8000 is designed more edgy and good looking, failing to provide the same level of comfort as MAD24. The overall passive noise isolation is higher with MAD24, and they are easier to drive, the A8000 needing an even better source, which makes the initial investment higher for enjoying the A8000 to the max. The overall sonic experience is extremely different, almost polar opposite between them, as A8000 has an extremely bright, somewhat cold and sparkly sound, with a ton of treble, air, and high end resolution, while MAD 24 focuses on the lows and the mids instead, providing a much smoother, more relaxed, and heavier sound. MAD24 has a more rich midrange and bass, with a smoother, leaner treble, yet it bears similar extension in the treble compared to A8000, but focuses most of that energy in a non fatiguing way, lowering the amount of upper midrange / lower treble, where A8000 sounds exactly like a live concert, MAD24 sounding much closer to a well isolated, acoustically treated studio. Both make great purchases, and the A8000 will reveal some details that MAD 24 will shy away from, but MAD 24 will get voices, both male and female, better, along with impact and drums better than A8000. As granny used to say, you can’t have everything in life, and sometimes you have to pick what’s most important to you.
Ambient Acoustics Main Audio Destination MAD24 vs Unique Melody MEST MK2 (3499 USD vs 1500 USD) – The package is actually similar between the two, but you can order MEST mK2 with a balanced cable. Both IEMs are made to be universals and can be ordered and such, and both have a good comfort, and are on the slightly large side physically, both offer good passive noise isolation, similar actually, and both are similarly hard to drive, with MESt MK2 have a slightly higher actual impedance, making it slightly less sensitive to source compared to MAD 24. The sonic experience is quite different between them, and MESt MK2 is considerably more neutral overall, with a colder midrange, and a more bottley sounding upper bass, while MAD24 has a more traditional sound to the bass, more thickness, a darker midrange, with a smoother treble and less treble harshness / sibilance, but also less treble presence in general. MEST MK2 feels better with rock and metal, it has more sparkle in the treble, while MAD 24 sounds more natural in the midrange, with more richness to the lows, mids, and a more laid back, relaxed sound, yet manages to have the same amount of detail as MEST MK2, and more, especially at louder volumes. MESt MK2 is better at lower volumes, and at medium volumes, MAD24 shines more at medium and high volumes.
Ambient Acoustics Main Audio Destination MAD24 vs CTM Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci X (3499 USD vs 2400 USD) – We arrive at a comparison that’s going to hurt both sides, because Da Vinci X has been for a long time a leader in clarity and overall resolution among IEMs that I reviewed here at audiophile-heaven. The comfort is comparable between them, both are large IEMs that need large ears and some sacrifices in the comfort for everyday wearing, and the default cable is not the best with either, although MAD 24 has a better default cable, a more complete package, and a better overall design for long-term usage than Da Vinci X. The sonics are more focused on detail on Da Vinci X, they are brighter, have considerably less bass and more treble, but the overall detail level is pretty much the same. I’m shocked to be saying this, but where Da vinci X has been the most detailed IEM out there a while ago, MAD 24 easily sweeps that place from below the feet of Da Vinci X, and actually shows that you can have that detail, without being bright and unnatural in the midrange, and while Da Vinci X tends to be quite bright and splashy, lacking richness and sometimes musicality, MAD 24 has all of those, and more to give to the listener, making the easiest to listen flagship, with super good detail, but musicality and richness to match the price point. If you like a brighter, neutral sound, Da Vinci X is the more neutral option, while if you like a richer, deeper presetatnion that’s smoother and has more bass, MAD 24 should be the IEM to go for here.
Ambient Acoustics MAD24 + Lotoo PAW 6000 (3499 USD + 1200 USD) – We have a really beautiful presentation with PAW 6000, as it is able to give MAD 24 a really full, rich presentation, but with a gentle touch, and while not taking away any of the speed that’s present with the super resolute drivers of MAD 24, it gives MAD 24 a really clean and slightly soft sound that’s laid back, musical and very detailed.
Ambient Acoustics MAD24 + Dethonray DTR1+ (3499 USD + 1000 USD) – We have super nice pairing and tuning for this pairing, and as always, it feels like DTR1+ matches itself for the IEMs, as it gives MAD 24 a really full, clean and deep sound, but with a colorful midrange, and a stronger, bolder, airier treble than most of the other sources. It really makes you love the overall impact and vividness in the mids, along with the colorful cymbal carhes, that are still fatigue-free thanks to the unique technology Ambient Acoustics implemented in MAD24.
Ambient Acoustics MAD24 + Astell & Kern SE180 (3499 USD + 1500 USD) – We have the thickest, deepest, smoothest sound with SE180, and I love this to bits, as it makes MAD24 the most laid back and relaxing, but also the deepest and most impactful, giving them a really beautiful overall impact and definition. I also love the overall clarity and precision of the pairing, SE180 being second to none when it comes to precision, impact and timing, as it gives MAD 24 the most rich and deep sound a source can give them.
Ambient Acoustics MAD24 + iBasso DX300 (3499 USD + 1200 USD) – DX300 is still at the top of the list when it comes to what I’d have as a daily portable music player. I love SE180 and its sound, and I love DX240 and its size, but nothing can quite compare to DX300 and its tablet-style design, superb dynamism, and outstanding detail, along with the more forward sound that pairs really nicely with MAD 24, giving them a more detailed, more peppy sound that’s more alive than their default smooth and rich presentation. They don’t lose any depth and bass, but they gain some much needed forwardness to become less laid back.
Ambient Acoustics MAD24 + Astell & Kern SP2000T (3499 USD + 2500 USD) – I found a special spot for MAD 24 and SP2000T, as they have nice synergy together. The one thing you will notice with the pairing is that SP2000T brings more texture to MAD 24, and it makes them more punchy and more dynamic, at the cost of some precision, which can be found with the little brother SE180. I like the overall depth and impact of the sound, and the midrange is more colorful, while the bass is lower in overall quantity compared to SE180, SP2000T giving the most colorful, most open and vivid sound to MAD 24.
Ambient Acoustics MAD24 + STE Cu W16 (3499 USD + 400 USD) – I actually love the presentation of MAD 24 with upgraded cables, and if there’s anything that feels a bit underwhelming with them, that is the default cable, which although copper, is single ended only, and won’t enable you to take full advantage of balanced music players such as Astell & Kern SE180, and iBasso DX300. The overall sound with STE CU W16 is deeper, more dynamic, and more detailed than with the default cable, but this could be attributed to the fact that CU W16 is a balanced cable and I’m now using the balanced output of all my sources, compared to using the single ended output with the default cable.
Ambient Acoustics MAD24 + Plussound Copper+ (3499 USD + 999 USD) – This is like pouring gasoline on a fire, and I love it to bits. MAD 24 is already thick, smooth and deep with its default cable, but adding Copper+ brings everything to a whole new level of delight, smoothness and bassiness. Don’t get me wrong, ain’t nothing wrong with loving the lows, and where MAD 24 is able to play some really beautiful low notes, Copper+ takes their entire sound and refines it, brings even more impact and better depth to the bass, increases the soundstage of MAD 24, and gives them an even clearer, cleaner presentation that helps them with the overall punchiness and dynamics of their sound.
Ambient Acoustics MAD24 + Effect Audio EVO1 (3499 USD + 440 USD) – I’ve had the surprise to notice that EVO 1 doing its usual job on MAD 24 works well for them, as it gives them a more textured sound that’s a bit more harsh, and which tends to give them a bit more details. You should read the review of EVO 1 if this doesn’t make a lot of sense, because that’s one cable with a personality, and it can change the sonics of an IEM to a more grainy presentation, which, for a smooth sounding IEM like MAD 24 can actually highlight details a bit better.
Value and Conclusion
This has been one hecc of a review to work on for sure, lots of work comparing MAD24 to other IEMs, and lots of work pairing, taking notes, adventure which took more than a month of work, not even including the fact that I’m working on a video review, and I also plan on reviewing MAD16 in the near future. They are pricey for sure, as 3499 USD being the most pricy IEM I’ve heard and I know of, but at the same time, achieving many technological records, including the highest number of drivers in a single IEM, along with having that perfect phase design, and a sound that’s hard to forget once you hear them. You are surely going to want to invest in MAD24 if you’re coming from a high-end listening stereo setup, and everything seems to fail in delivering the proper warmth, paired with detail and clarity. As for explaining their cost, imagine being the first company to develop an IEM with 24 drivers per ear, that has to cost a lot just in R&D. Even the unit production cost is fairly high, as if you try to purchase a better Balanced Armature driver from Aliexpress and such, you will see prices going as high as 50 USD per driver, which means that a single IEM would cost 1200 USD to put together, just for the raw cost of the drivers, with no VAT, which would be another 20%, so it is darn expensive to make the MAD24, not just to purchase them, they are a technological advancement that’s going to feel like one. Of course, for you, as a listener, the law of diminishing returns will kick in, and if you want the absolute best value you can get, there are options, but if you want to experience a summit-fi IEM and a flagship, MAD24 and its musicality are something new on the market.
The package is interesting and the company is quite daring with their products, from both a technological and a marketing point of view, going for a bold, yet refined look for their MAD24, they also include all the basic extras needed to enjoy their IEMs, plus a really high quality carrying case for keeping their IEMs protected during shipping and other adventures. The build quality is nothing to sneer at either, MAD24 being what can be called a tank of a handmade IEM.
Before the end of today’s written review, I have to give Ambient Acoustics MAD24 a place in Audiophile-Heaven’s Hall Of Fame as one of the best sounding, most technologically and structurally, sonically and conceptually impressive IEMs I’ve seen in my reviewing adventure, and man, it’s been over 800 reviews in total for me, to get to such a gem, so anything I can call a gem is surely going to appear in many other flagship comparisons and other reviews.
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for the best sounding warm tuned, clean and deep IEMs, with 24 drivers per each ear to deliver proper enjoyment, endless fun and thousands hours of delight and joy, Ambient Acoustics MAD24 are fully recommended, especially as they have the most natural sound you can find in a monitoring flagship with this level of detail. Ambient Acoustics managed to create the world’s first In-Ear Monitor with 24 drivers per ear, and for this, they deserve to be known about, and to be loved and heard by as many as possible.
Official Link: https://ambient-acoustics.ua/124/eng/index.html
You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3MNeCio
If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/38QOh4n
And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/3PKosU4
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Full Playlist used for this review
We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature. PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality are all revealed by those songs. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music!
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