4.Ai & FitEar TO GO! 334
The 4.Ai is actually a lot smaller than the 334; it's hard to tell in this photograph.
The other day, I met up with a friend of mine with the TG334. He had been curious about the 4.Ai, and thus we decided to meet and trade notes.
A larger quantity of bass emanates from the TO GO! 334 compared to the 4.Ai. It is very apparent from the get-go, and is probably the first thing anyone will notice when switching to and from one another. Tips and insertion depth, however, change the character of the bass greatly in the 334, whereas the bass character of the 4.Ai doesn’t change too much in my estimation. On the other hand, the midrange and treble of the 4.Ai is susceptible to change with the tips used and the insertion depth, whereas the 334 doesn't seem to change too much. I suspect this may have something to do with the titanium sound tube used in the 334, but that's just a guess. To top it off, the TO GO! 334 imparts a blacker background, regardless of tips used. It is this stolid presence that really sets it apart from the crowd. I mostly tested the 334 with an O2 amplifier, so I couldn’t really hear hiss.
Out of all the earphones that I’ve ever tried (and I’ve tried a LOT), there is nothing that beats the midrange of the FitEar TO GO! 334. Both accurate and involving, the midrange extends deep from front to back and top to bottom. Voices have just the right weight; never too thick and never too thin. When Head-Fi’s own Jude heaped endless praise about about the midrange of the 334 (albeit this is the full-custom version, the MH334), he wasn’t kidding. Rebecca Pidgeon’s rendition of Spanish Harlem, a longtime audiophile test track favorite, simply performed flawlessly. Rebecca’s hauntingly beautiful voice filled my entire headspace never feeling too large or too small. This is where the 4.Ai loses out.
At this point, you might just think I’m a sucker for the expensive. Yet, as amazing as the midrange of the 334 is, I was never disappointed with the 4.Ai. It actually does very well for itself, but falls short of the completeness of the TO GO! earphone. There is a tad more treble presence and extension to the 4.Ai, lending it more of a sense of boundlessness to the soundstage as compared to the 334. However, the 4.Ai just isn’t as convincing when it comes to giving shape to instruments and voices, and that facet of sound is very important in my book. Actually, my fully-custom 4.A comes closer, giving vocals better volume and definition (yeah, I know I make it sound like a Pantene Pro-V commercial, but it’s the easiest way to describe things).
The few times that the TO GO! 334 runs into problems happen on tracks that play fast and loose with their bass levels. It is then that the gorgeous midrange gets a little lost within the loping bass of that massive CI driver. For example, on Stacey Kent’s La Vénus du Mélo, the 334 can at times (not often) sound like a slow, lumbering mess (take this extreme characterization with a grain of salt --- I have really high standards for bass speed), whereas the 4.Ai keeps its composure throughout. I think it’d be interesting to see a square wave response comparison between the 4.Ai and the 334, but it won’t happen anytime soon and is a discussion for another time and place.
There’s little question about the overall superiority of the TO GO! 334 over the 4.Ai; it’s more precise with its soundstage, reaches deeper (though not higher), and boasts tighter tolerances in build quality. However, most people will balk at having to pay over three times the price to gain a small fraction of performance superiority. It is here where the 4.Ai will gain peoples’ respect. It comes fairly close to the soundstage precision of the TO GO! 334 for a lot less coin.