- Intel Core i7-6700K
- Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 7
- 32GB Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4 2666
- 512GB Samsung 950 Pro
- SanDisk Extreme Pro 960GB
- Enermax Platimax 1350
- Windows 10 64-bit
- Creative Labs X7 Limited Edition
The Creative X7 isn’t exactly the most audiophile of amps, but it does have put out a respectable, clean amount of power and can control EQ very well. It’s also a “gaming” item and not necessarily a truly “audiophile” piece of hardware. So it’s something you may have heard of. It’s also what I have at the moment personally, and enjoy.
To test this we’ll need a wide variety of material to play through to really evaluate them. On the music front we’ll go for a few genres, classical, movie soundtracks, EDM and some other dynamic classics. On the gaming front we have a few good games as well. Not all games are created equal in terms of sound reproduction, so we’ll take a look at Star Wars: Battlefront, Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen. All tracks used are FLAC played through foobar2000.
IEMs typically have a reputation for being more direct sounding, in that instruments, sound effects and dialogue can easily sound if it’s right in front of you. They also don’t suffer from needing to take into account the shape of your ear, being that they bypass all that organic wizardry of the ear. Not all IEMs sound the same, however, with armature drivers being more detailed and offering slightly better sound than typical dynamic ones. And the tuning, and even the shape, of each offer different levels of apparent audio goodness. These seem to certainly be very well thought out.
The sound quality in general can be described as very open, detailed and fast. Bass is ever present and in your face, though it’s detailed and rather nice sounding. The mid-range is sweet and the high-end is a bit soft, though nothing seems to be missing. There’s a lot of detail these can reveal, it just takes a critical ear if you really want to listen that hard. These are not analytical, but instead are colored by that low-end. They sound great, inviting as if they just wanna hang out for a bit and soothe you with aural tales.
Star Wars: Battlefront is a great example of a proper soundscape. One of the ways in which DICE drew us in and helped us get that Star Wars feeling was using those ever-recognizable sound effects and the music. There’s a very intimate feel to the whole thing when you put the 64Audio U4’s into your ears. It’s right in your head, blasting sweet sonic goodness nearly directly into your brain. The pings and zings of blasterfire are all rendered in harrowing detail, and it sounds so immediate and in front of you. The soundstage is very large, and this allows you the opportunity to take in the splendid details that have been put into some of them maps.
Everything has impact and sounds like you’re in it. The staccato of the SE-14C as you try to track Boba Fett, Fett’s taunts, they’re all right there.
The extra bass from the dual sub armature drivers is actually very well suited to action games with a lot of explosions, and they do very good in revealing the tiny details that make Battlefront a cinematic gaming experience.
Elite: Dangerous may not appeal to everyone’s tastes, though the soundscape is magnificent compared to any game today. Frontier have put a lot of nuance, no matter how realistic it may be, into their representation of the galaxy. And that means the myriad sounds you’ll encounter while exploring. Everything feels so very big when you put the U4’s in. It’s very easy to become engrossed in the action, or inaction, with everything but the feeling of zero gravity to pull you into it. The deep crescendo of the frame drive is an incredible experience. The low-end has a lot of separation and because it’s being directly into your ear, it isn’t boomy in the slightest. It’s pleasant, but intensely there. These favor those low end, and the galaxy at large seems to be humming with life. The soundstage is wide, but right in front of you. It’s as if this is the very definition of immersion. Sometimes that bass can be just a bit overpowering, though it’s possible to lower the amount with a bit of EQ. The proper application of EQ can turn Elite: Dangerous into one of the best sounding games ever. In fact, these tiny, almost cheap feeling IEMs seem to have the uncanny ability to reveal little details that weren’t otherwise noticed before. And they sit in your ears nearly invisible, comfortably transporting you to another world.
A very dynamic song that can help pinpoint the positives and negatives of any pair of headphones is Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones. With the 64Audio U4’s occupying your ears the effect is like you’re in front of them as they personally play for you. The impact of the drums and the twang of the sitar are all very much in front of you and in startling detail. A poorly encoded, or recorded copy may actually end up sounding terrible, because all the flaws and even the finger strokes on the sitar are revealed here. It’s gorgeous, really.
Worthy of Survival by Bear McCreary is another wordly, dynamic song that’s challenging to render and a pleasure to listen to. Soundtrack music has evolved so much in the past 10 years, moving from a predictable type to encompass much more emotion. Bear McCreary uses quite a bit of percussion to help emphasize the immediacy of the drama. The well-controlled bass from the U4’s are fantastic, with each percussive hit being both detailed and full-bodied. That is, it sounds real, as if you’re there. Close your eyes and you can almost visualize the music being played live.
For other music, particularly EDM, that same bass-centric tuning also helps to keep the beat lively and full of energy. It may be a tad much for some people, being right into your ear, but that can be fixed with the majority of EQ software with no issues.
Being IEM’s, these are only as comfortable as the tips that are on it. The basic tips that are included are actually some of the most popular third-party replacements made by Comply. They’re popular for good reason, because they’re extremely comfortable. The trick is finding which size actually fits and getting that correct seal. If they aren’t in right, then they won’t sound nearly as good as they’re able to, which may be one reason why IEM’s aren’t always the most popular.
So what’s the verdict? Well, these are definitely a great sounding set of IEMs. They have bass for days, a smooth mid-range and a damn good high-end that does roll-off while nearing those mostly impossible to hear top frequencies. But it doesn’t sparkle or pierce my ears. The only problem is the build quality. You’d think that for the money, and with the 3D printing process that they use, they could go for a more premium outer case. The good news is that what’s inside is very good at reproducing sound. The bad news is that you may end up losing it all while they get crushed inside your bag. The value and the money is clearly in the armature drivers and even the engineering to make it all come out sounding aces. The included Comply tips just seal the deal, almost literally. A good seal and you’ll be able to forget the world. For better or worse. They sound good, the bass might be a tad much and maybe the high-end is muted. The materials aren’t that great, but they’re damn good. A value? Not really.
- Sound Quality
- Huge Sound Stage
- Fragile Cable
- Feel's Cheap