In my last year of middle school, my family visited Hong Kong during summer vacation. I had just gotten my first iPod that year, and it was pretty much the coolest thing ever at that point in my life. My dad loves looking at and listening to audio equipment, so we inevitably ended up at a small shopping complex dedicated to everything audio. I remember seeing in-ear monitors in a display, and fourteen year old me somehow convinced my parents I needed a pair. I walked home with a pair of Shure SE215s that day. That’s how it all started.
Since then, I’ve gone through quite a few different in-ear monitors. The two that stood out to me were the Shure SE535 and the Aurisonics ASG-1. Inside, I was longing for something more. I wanted customs. After a good amount of personal research and conversations with several sound engineer friends, I decided on Future Sonics. Even though the company based in Bristol, PA was completely new to me, it turns out they’re one of the biggest players in the in-ear monitor industry for professional musicians. A quick look at their impressive client list confirms that they are one of the best. If the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Maroon 5 use your products, you’re probably doing something right.
Future Sonics gets customer service. I’ve never dealt with a group of people who care more about their products. Needless to say, I had about a million questions before putting down $1,000 on a pair of in-ear monitors. David Gray, director of client services, responded to question after question in an unbelievably timely manner. Even though some of my questions like “should I wear these out in the cold?” and “how do I use the cleaning tool?” were probably overly silly, he never made me feel silly. That’s important.
After getting my ear impression molds done with Dr. Brian Fligor, I sent them to Future Sonics, coincidentally enough, a few weeks before a trip to Hong Kong. I wanted the in-ear monitors before leaving, but the quoted turnaround time put delivery a few days too late. I expressed this to David, and he did everything in his power to speed up the process. A few days later, David emailed me saying that I might have to take a look at the mg5pro instead because the mg6pro driver might not fit in my ear mold. In the end, everything fit and my in-ear monitors were delivered a few days ahead of schedule. David kept me updated throughout the whole process. Being the extremely impatient person I am when it comes to getting new gear, I was very appreciative of the consistent status updates.
Design & Aesthetics
I got my Future Sonics mg6pro in-ear monitors in clear. The transparency of clear customs has always appealed to me for some reason – probably something about being able to see all the internal circuitry. Unlike IEMs from other manufacturers, the mg6pro isn’t 100% clear. While the outside is transparent acrylic, there is a bubbly material inside that is used to mount the large 13 mm drivers in place. It actually looks really cool. Because this is a dynamic design where the driver actually moves air, each monitor features a low frequency vent (LFV). The mg6pro in-ear monitors ship with four different sized plugs with varying sized holes that are used to control the bass response.
The Future Sonics mg6pro is crafted out of acrylic, and will never isolate as well as silicone in-ear monitors. With that said, I wouldn’t say the isolation is bad. One thing to keep in mind is that the isolation level changes based on which LFV is used. The one that offers the largest bass response will ofter the least isolation. The LFV that is completely sealed offers the best isolation because there’s nowhere for outside sound to get in. I use the medium sized LFV, but briefly tested the fully sealed one for this review. The isolation is as good as the Aurisonics ASG-1 if that means anything. Wind noise is also an issue with the open LFVs. I personally don’t find it to be too much of a downside, especially when one remembers it’s a necessary evil that contributes to the mg6pro’s incredible bass response.
The first time I put on the Future Sonics mg6pro in-ear monitors, I was extremely disappointed. After an initial freakout followed by a brief conversation with David, it turns out I had actually put them in my ears wrong. Let’s just say they go in much deeper than I expected. He assured me it was a common rookie mistake, and that it happens all the time.
For me, the Future Sonics mg6pro’s sound signature is the most balanced and natural I have ever heard. I’m not going to get into what these two words mean. Quite frankly, they’re both extremely subjective words when it comes to describing sound. Two examples of in-ear monitors that are not balanced and natural would be the Aurisonics ASG-1 and the Shure SE535. The former is noticeably dark, and the latter is definitely mid-oriented. In comparison, the mg6pro in-ear monitors possess a flatter frequency response, and that’s really what I’m trying to say when it sounds balanced and natural. With that said, I wouldn’t recommend the mg6pro IEMs if you’re looking for something with a fun sound…which probably translates to boosted treble.
I found the Future Sonics mg6pro IEMs to be super engaging. I’ve never had so much fun listening to music. I’m sure some of it had to do with the novelty aspect of finally owning a pair of custom in-ear monitors. The thing is…I’ve been listening to music and performing with them for almost three months now, and I keep on loving them more and more everyday.
Dynamic driver in-ear monitors offer incredible bass response, and this is definitely the case with the Future Sonics mg6pro. The IEMs ship with the medium sized LFVs installed, and the bass energy increases when the large LFV is installed. Listening to Daft Punk’s award winning Random Access Memories with the mg6pro IEMs is an absolute joy. While the bass response is huge, it is also extremely well controlled and doesn’t intrude into the midrange frequencies. On the contrary, it does extend the other way…it extends very far. According to Marty Garcia, founder of Future Sonics, the mg6pro IEMs extend all the way down to 10 Hz – way past a human’s audible range. The idea here is that we can feel it even though we can’t hear it.
Regarding my thoughts on the LFVs, Kunlun over at HeadFi echoes my own thoughts…
The small opening LFV lets the driver breath and the sub-bass takes on that added dimension of life and comes up a little, with a small loss of some isolation. The bass quantity is equal with the midrange to my ears and things will be just right for many listeners.
The medium opening, well, this is my favorite at the moment and I would say it’s pretty great as the sub-bass comes up by a decibel or so, yet still balanced.
Even at the largest opening LFV, the bass is well controlled, but it’s presence and space have increased. I could see this LFV being very nice for stage use. Bass lovers will like this setting as well, though I would not say it’s overmuch to my ears.
I’m going to sound like a broken record, but the Future Sonics mg6pro’s midrange presentation is just so balanced and natural. Unlike the Shure SE535, it’s not hyped at all and it’s very pleasing to the ear. Female vocals sound gorgeous with the mg6pro IEMs. I’m kind of a midrange nut, and I think the mg6pro’s midrange presentation is the only one that satisfies me out of the various IEMs I’ve tried. Listening to Eva Cassidy’s album Songbird is almost a religious experience with these IEMs. I really don’t have much else to say about the midrange response…it’s just really really really good.
The Future Sonics mg6pro is designed as a stage monitor, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. The treble response is non-sibliant and non-fatiguing. I’ve literally listened to music with these for ten hours straight with short breaks every few hours. It just doesn’t hurt when you listen with reasonable volumes. While the treble is definitely controlled, it still has a nice sparkle so cymbals and high female vocals don’t sound artificially dull. Again, the treble is balanced and natural. It might not immediately appeal to treble lovers.
Soundstage and Presentation
I was thoroughly surprised with the Future Sonics mg6pro’s spatial properties. The soundstage is a little larger than the Aurisonics ASG-1, which is already pretty spectacular in this respect. Stereo imaging is also nice, and it’s easy to form a visual image of a performance and pick out certain instruments – especially in well recorded jazz settings. I think the Future Sonics mg6pro is also great for classical music due to the above average soundstage, stereo imaging, and balanced frequency response.
The Future Sonics mg6pro comes with a personalized hardshell case. Inside, there is a standard earwax cleaning tool, a small faux leather pouch for the IEMs, and the different sized low frequency vents. At this price, it would’ve been nice to see a few small items like a 3.5 mm to 1/4″ adapter and perhaps an airplane adapter.
At $1,000, the Future Sonics mg6pro custom in-ear monitor is definitely not cheap. Think about it though…you’re probably going to be spending that kind of money anyway if you’re looking to invest in a high quality pair of customs. Future Sonics doesn’t have a huge social media or internet presence, so many people don’t know about them. I actually think this is a good thing. The company is committed to putting all of their resources into the actual product, and it shows with something like the mg6pro. Furthermore, Future Sonics’ customer service honest and committed, and they really want to improve peoples’ lives with their products. It’s also worth mentioning that Future Sonics offer an affordable upgrade program if new driver designs are released in the future. You’ll essentially be able to get a new and improved in-ear monitor at a fraction of the cost of a new one.
Finally, a short anecdote. I play a lot of musical theatre, and have been using the Future Sonics mg6pro IEMs six nights a week at the American Repertory Theatre’s production of Witness Uganda (which by the way is a fantastic show). I’m playing Keyboard 2, and am so thankful for the mg6pro’s unique qualities. A lot of the music is very groove-based, so hearing the drums, percussion, and bass is very important to me. This is where the mg6pro’s incredible bass response comes in. Some people are probably wondering why I can’t just turn up the bass EQ on my Aviom. It’s not just about having the frequencies there. Some IEMs are just muddy in the bass region, and no amount of bass EQ is going to fix that. The mg6pro’s bass response is just presented in such an engaging way. It makes it so much easier to get into the music, and that’s what it’s all about.