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The Ultimate Ears Super fi 4 Review

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hey all,

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.
post #2 of 16
Nice review. Kinda wierd how it sounds better with e2c orange foam tips instead of comply tips, which tend to bring out the best in most earphones. :P
post #3 of 16
Thanks a lot for this review! I've been looking for one a long time ago, and couldn't find any.
As for the Comply foamies, did you have the same experience on the 5 pros? Because I hear lots of good concerning the comply's, but for my ears, they sound horrible.
post #4 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by K_19 View Post
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.
That has been my observation as well. Unfortunately the comfy's are the only ones that seem to fit well from me.
post #5 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlsan View Post
That has been my observation as well. Unfortunately the comfy's are the only ones that seem to fit well from me.
Sorry, off topic...
Does your USB amp improve the sound of the Shure SE530's when the source is the Zune 80?
post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by VoLTaG3 View Post
Sorry, off topic...
Does your USB amp improve the sound of the Shure SE530's when the source is the Zune 80?
How do you intend to connect the zune to the USB dac?
post #7 of 16
great review and thanks for that. what was your source, btw? lossless or lossy audio files? cheers
post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Photofan1986 View Post
Thanks a lot for this review! I've been looking for one a long time ago, and couldn't find any.
As for the Comply foamies, did you have the same experience on the 5 pros? Because I hear lots of good concerning the comply's, but for my ears, they sound horrible.
To an extent, I did somewhat experience the same thing with the 5 Pros. They gave me the best comfort, best seal, but the SQ wasn't as good as my other favourite set of tips, the default grey foamies... although they were nowhere close to the hits that the SF4 took (that could be due to the fact that SF5pro naturally does the highs better, sometimes even harsh). For the sake of comfort/sound ratio, I usually use the Complys anyway with the SF5pro's, but it's always annoying having to buy them over and over again (although not so much of an issue now since they barely get a listen these days).


Quote:
Originally Posted by smallcaps View Post
great review and thanks for that. what was your source, btw? lossless or lossy audio files? cheers
With the source being the Sony S639F (with nearly no support for lossless codec), I had to settle for 320kbps Mp3's. Thinking back, I should have ripped a few PCM WAV files or play it through the CD player, since as I've mentioned they seemed to be fairly detailed and scaled accordingly to the quality of the files.

Thanks for the comments everyone. I returned them a while ago when I got the Phonaks, which do clearly best them in most categories and gave me no reason to keep the SF4's at all, but they are still a competent set of IEM's.
post #9 of 16
Any pictures?

Reviews are so much better with some visuals, you know...
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ka-boom View Post
Any pictures?

Reviews are so much better with some visuals, you know...
Wish I could have. It's long gone now.

It's very low profile though, all things considered. They're one of the smallest IEM's that I've seen, probably as big as the Q-Jays.
post #11 of 16
Nice review.
post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by VoLTaG3 View Post
Sorry, off topic...
Does your USB amp improve the sound of the Shure SE530's when the source is the Zune 80?
Off topic reply, I don't use the usb amp with the Shure's.
I use it with my crappy laptop, with regular full size headphones.

I think the Zune's and the Shure's are a match made in heaven together, the volume doesn't get much past 2 or 3 on the Zune's when I use the Shures. They are that economical when it comes to sound, and they do sound great together! I did try the FIOe5 but didn't really notice much of a difference in terms of sound quality.

The Zune is a really well made MP3 player with great sound. The better quality earphones, without an amp, makes them really shine. People should just throw out he default earphones and buy quality, most would be amazed.
post #13 of 16

Got a pair of these new on closeout for $32.  Pretty good for that price with complys.  Using them to listen to Pandora on my Blackberry Tour.  I like my Westone UM1's quite a bit more all around, though.


Edited by Dorfmeister - 6/30/10 at 9:30am
post #14 of 16

Hey, I know this topic is very old, but I have a chance to get these IEMs new for -50%, instead of 100€ only 50€, and I'm wondering if I can get better IEMs for 50€ for rock and metal but also instrumental music (So I really appreciate sound quality and clarity!).

Also are these IEMs really 100€?


Edited by naike - 11/4/10 at 1:38pm
post #15 of 16

you can get better for 50 do dahs that my keyboard lacks the symbol of

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