I just bought the Ultimate Ears Super fi 4 today from my local retailer, and thought I'd do a review here as I haven't seen these IEM's discussed much at all. Due to other solid mid-tier phones in this class such as Shure SE110/115/210, Westone UM1, IE6, etc., UE Super fi 4 isn't considered by many, and UE recommendations typically start from Super fi 5... so I thought I'd try these out and see if they're of any worth.
Now, as for the reason for the "purchase"... I know many of you would ask "why get Super fi 4 when you already got 5 Pro and the SE530's?" Well, if any of you have been checking some of the SE530 threads recently, you may know that I currently have my SE530's sent in to get custom sleeve for it so I'm without my primary IEM at the moment. As for the Super fi 5 Pros, they have been borrowed by my friend for a while and will not likely come back anytime soon. I of course also have Super fi 5 EB and JVC Marshmallows... but they're strictly niche IEM's for me. So I figured I buy these now to tie me over and see how these perform (as I was pretty curious), and return it when I get my custom sleeved 530's back (hence why I put "purchase" in quotations as the likely of me returning these are very high). And if I liked it enough, I may just keep it.
Now to the body of the review... before I start, I should mention that my ears are very picky with the tips (which is why I had to get the custom sleeve for 530s), so I've pretty much experienced with every single tips these were compatible with. I'll also make comparisons with the only other IEM's I have which is in this price bracket, the SE210's. Alright, here we go!
Packaging: Pretty much the same as the ones that the new UE Super fi 5's come in. The paper box, plastic blister packaging, and the like. It comes included with semi clear/white soft silicone tips (one small, two medium, and one large), as well as two pairs of comply tips... the back of the box had sections cut out in order to display the available tips, and there was something I found rather amusing and weird... there is a section that has the label "dual flange", but the spot shows comply tips and there are NO dual flange tips included in the package. at all... weird... There is a small plastic case included that opens like a lighter, which do seem sturdy enough but looks very cheapish... clearly much worse than the aluminum cases my EB/5Pros came with.
Comfort/cabling: These are obviously much smaller than either my EB's or 5Pros, so they're very easy on your ears and stick out very little. The cables are NOT replaceable and doesn't have the memory wire, though they do seem pretty sturdy. Overall they're about the same thickness as the Shure cables, just not as stiff. Overall the IEM's themselves seem pretty sturdy and seem like it can handle a good amount of beating. Since they're very light, even if you wear it over the ear without memory wire, there isn't much tugging. Their design definitely suggest wearing it downwards, though. The plug is straight, not L, and there aren't any extra cable extensions included.. the default cord seems to be about 3 feet, obviously catering to Ipod owners. The seal and comfort is the best with comply tips, though you may think twice about using them with this (more on that later)
Microphonics: When worn down, as expected, the microphonics were horrible. Over the ear improved this substantially, but definitely still there.
Sound Quality: Well, here's the beef of the review. To sum it up, the sound quality varies tremendously pending on which types of tips you use. Tested with Sony S639F with no amp.
Comply tips: Absolutely horrendous. The bass impact and extension is decent, but that's where it all ends... the mids are nearly nonexistent, and the highs, typically a UE strength, is severely rolled off, even worse than the SE210's. They provide the best comfort and seal, but otherwise is pretty much unlistenable SQ wise.
Silicone tips: These are on by default, though these aren't too big ot a step over the complys SQ wise. Bass loses a bit of impact, and mids come out slightly more, but the highs are still very much rolled off.
e2c Orange foam tips: Being disappointed with the other two types of tips, I immediately went to the the e2c orange foam tips I had left over, which is pretty much the same as the grey foam tips that the Super fi 5 Pro and EBs came with. And FINALLY, I was able to get great sound quality! The orange foams brought out all the highs and the mids became much more upfront and clear, edging out even the SE210 mids... the bass losses some extension but is still very punchy, miles better than the SE210 anemic bass. The SE210's are more smooth and has bit better instrument separation, but that's the only area where it wins. The soundstage also improved tremendously, whereas the soundstage with other two tips were very narrow and confined. Another negative was that these provided the least isolation out of all the tips. If I had to compare it to another headphone I have currently, these phones with orange foams sound like an IEM version of Yuin PK2, meaning, it's balanced with punchy bass. I found these also somewhat detailed, as my worse recordings definitely sounded a lot worse with these while the better encoded ones were excellent.
Overall, it's clear to see based on their size, cable length and general sonic signature with included tips that these were designed with Ipod owners in mind. With default tips, they have overemphasis on bass and is extremely warm, having severely rolled off highs and veiled mids. But with e2c foam tips (which is more porous and typically bring out mroe highs and mids), they sounded very good and was better than SE210 in most areas. Will I keep it when I get my SE530's back? That's a definite no, but if I ever had a choice where I could keep only one of SE210 or Super fi 4, I'll definitely take this... but the Super fi 5 Pros still trump these, very easily at that. In all, they're decent IEM's, though very picky with tips.