Pros: Excellent separation, clarity and speed for the price; Great treble articulation and energy; Tuneable sound via eartip rolling;
Cons: Might not have enough bass for some; Treble might be a tad hot with silicones
Before I begin the review, I would like to thank Advanced Sound for providing this review set of M4s for free in exchange for my honest opinion and review. As a budding reviewer, I really appreciate the opportunity given, because most of the reviews are done up by more senior members with a lot more reviewing experience. I am in no way affiliated with the company.
For this review I shall not dwell too much on packaging and accessories or design, but the bulk of my review will revolve around the M4’s sound as well as how ear tip rolling changes its sound.
Packaging and Accessories:
For the price that Advanced Sound is asking, the package is superb. It comes in a standard cardboard case, with a carry case for the M4 IEMs, a shirt clip, as well as a whole selection of silicone tips for users to play with. A set of foam tips come default on the M4 IEMs.
The M4 housing itself is beautiful to look at, and is very meticulously finished. It is made out of a matte aluminium and feels incredibly lightweight and easy to handle. Advanced says that it is sandblasted and diamond cut - sounds pretty complex for an IEM at its price range, and feels incredibly premium, which belies its price range. It shows that a lot of effort and thought was put into something as simple as the design. It is a solid design choice and is aesthetically appealing, at least to me. The cable feels extremely durable to work with, and very much tangle proof in my day to day use. I had no issues whatsoever in coiling and unravelling the cable during use.
DAP used: Sony A15 and Onkyo DP-X1A
*note that the comparisons in sound will be between 1) comply tips, 2) standard silicones, 3) double flanged silicones
(with comply tips)
Bass hits fast with quick turn of pace, but yet retaining good extension and weight, typical of a dynamic driver bass moving air. Bass lovers who love texture and slam might not fancy the fairly speedy decay but I feel that this is very good bass – not sluggish but tight with impact. Tuning is tasteful and definitely without bloat, yet hits with sufficient impact when the track calls for it. If one is picky, the only downside might perhaps be that the bass notes tend to be slightly rounded off its edges, or what some might call a little soft in character. I personally feel this is necessarily because it fits right in to the general tuning of the M4. It is mildly north of neutral, but very satisfyingly musical in tuning.
Mids have great separation and clarity, but compared to other mid-centric IEMs may sound just a touch cool/thin on low volumes. Synergy with different DAPs may yield varying results here. However, it is somewhat reminiscent of the Etymotic cleanness/clarity (I really enjoyed auditioning the ER4XR, and prefer it over the SR), and there is a good sense of space as well. At softer volumes it may sound the slightest bit hollow, but general listening volumes will have the mids begin to fill out with a little more body. There is none of the typical midrange bass bleed that commonly afflicts IEMs in this price range, thankfully.
Treble is even throughout the FR and extends fairly well, it is just sparkly enough to be musical, and not be sibilant or have grating peaks. This is uncommon for IEMs at this price range, which usually tend toward either extremes of recessed or overly peaky/fatiguing treble or a pronounced V-shaped curve. I feel that the treble evenness and clarity also contributes to good air around instruments and decent resolution. If one were to be picky, the treble perhaps could have improved timbre – decay seems a tad too quick compared to real cymbal crashes.
Staging is decent in all three axes, with better depth and height than width, but coupled with great separation and clarity it is very enjoyable to listen to, and you would be hard pressed to feel like the music is congested. Most of the time there is great detail retrieval and realism, even though staging may feel intimate sometimes, depending on tracks. Imaging is also decent at this price class, with fairly clear positioning cues. Think of a small recording studio and not a concert hall or stadium feel. Performance here in terms of resolution and clarity however is definitely top of its price class at $39.99.
(with standard silicone tips)
Bass retains its speed and extension, but loses some presence and slam. Mids are still clear, but with the silicones again a little of that weight and presence is traded off for a more spacious presentation and a greater treble tilt. Treble is where there is most difference – there is definitely more sparkle and presence in the top end, and greater articulation. I hear more energy in the attack and more cymbal detail. It is interesting because I am sensitive to treble, but Advanced has managed to tune it in such a way that it doesn’t get sibilant. With the silicones, staging gains in height and a little bit of air. Separation and clarity are still outstanding, and perceptibly even more so than with foams.
(with double flanged silicone tips)
What might be of interest is that the double flanged silicones seem to sit somewhere in between the foams and the silicones in terms of tuning. Bass is not as heavy as the foams but retains more impact and texture than the silicone. Mids have less weight than the foams but a little more presence than the silicones. Treble is more articulate than with the foams but less aggressive than with the silicones. The double flanges sound the slightest bit more 'open' than the foams.
Considering my listening preferences, I’d probably stick with the foam option for everyday listening, with the double flanges in a tight second place for clarity and because I’m highly sensitive to treble. What I find most beneficial is that with Advanced providing an ample supply of silicone tips in the package, consumers get an opportunity to further ‘tune’ the sound a little with the tips depending on listener preference, which is really great because different users may use it with different kinds of gear to find the best synergy.
Prior to my review, reading other users’ impressions left me expecting a heavily treble oriented IEM. To my pleasant surprise, I found the tuning fairly balanced, tilting towards a gentle U shape, and depending on tips, users can have a choice of further fine-tuning the sound to match their preferences. Kudos to Advanced Sound for a fantastic offering in this price range!