FROGBEATS C4 CUSTOM IN EAR MONITOR
A perfect water drop
Every audiophile strives for perfection. Whether or not it is obtainable in such a finicky hobby by such obsessive people is a question that could lead to endless pondering. In the crazy world of audiophilia I have always felt to belong to the outside group that doesn't subscribe to being so obsessive, so prone to snake oil, too dismissive of objectivity or subjectivity. I tend to walk a middle line. I like to think I am practical.
My work and indeed my core belief in audio leads me down the middle line of trusting my ears and gut instinct but also collaborating what I sense to what the objective sciences tell me. I believe in perfection in the world of audiophilia even if this perfection is solely personal.
I have found the perfect open headphones. I have found the perfect closed headphone. However, the perfect IEM eluded me. I have been guided to sit at many a demonstration table only to walk away wishing for a little more refinement here and a little more refinement there and perhaps a little less frequency here and more there. I thought I had found one that came close...but I was hesitant in ordering it. It lacked one of the few things I crave in a system...soundstage and realism. Then...one night... I got offered to demo a pair of new custom iem's for the purposes of feedback and possible review.
Feedback and possible review....at that point in time, I thought I would never do another feedback or review so I warned this person that I wouldn't hold back any punches and would provide an honest review from the start. Surprisingly...he agreed. That person, David Annez of Frogbeats, told me he needed an honest opinion and review…a very refreshing point of view seeing is that he was the actual owner of the company. I agreed and proceeded to go through the steps of getting a custom in ear monitor done.
After getting my impressions done by the best person in the world and waiting two months...my custom IEM's arrived. This is what I held in my hands after waiting for so long...
The physical packaging is exactly what most of us hobbyists have to come to expect from a high end custom universal in ear monitor (CIEM). The CIEM came in an otter box with a warranty card and a cable. As many of you might know, I don't really care about the looks of an amp or headphones. That said...these things are beautifully crafted and look quite snazzy! What about the sound? In one word: WIN. In two: EPIC WIN! Let's break it down as to why this CIEM is pure and utter WIN..why it is EPIC WIN...
The low-lows are anything below 20Hz to me. I ALWAYS play tones to figure out how low the headphone or IEM can do in the feel-able spectrum of audio. Usually, if a headphone can let me feel 18Hz, I come away impressed. The Frogbeats C4 played 18Hz as if it was no big deal. It did the same with 16...and the same with 15...and the same with 14..all the way down to 10 where it started fading away! How many of you currently have a headphone or IEM that can let you feel 10Hz?!
Wow...if the Frogbeats C4 can play 10Hz, I immediately became worried that perhaps the bass range had been exaggerated in order to play so low. I started to cringe just thinking about it. What a relief it was to play one of my demo discs. I took out " Holst, Handel, Bach Sousa & More” conducted by Frederick Fennell & The Cleveland Symphonic Winds. I played track 3, The March from the First Suite In E-flat, Op.28, No.1. The timpani are recorded so well that the deep bass is accurately conveyed to a point that only real life can beat it.
After playing it on the C4...I'm not that sure that real life can beat it. The bass was very accurate without coloring any of the other instruments. I say this being completely honest...the C4 DOES NOT handle this track with the finesse and refinement of a high end speaker system...no...it handles it with the finesse and refinement of the Cleveland Symphonic Winds playing directly in front of you. Well done Frogbeats....well done.
This has always been the most critical part of any headphone or IEM for me. I always use vocals for this test. I had heard countless headphones fail in the midrange despite having good bass in the past. They might do well with some vocals but not all of them. Being able to convey the lush smoothness of Nat King Cole is easy for some headphones but being able to do that AND convey the raspyness of Louis Armstrong or mid-high range of Billie Holiday WITHOUT making her screechy is hard. Tori Amos is another one that hard to reproduce. There are many a great headphone and IEM that can do these artists justice. HOWEVER, when what you are listening to can point out an edit...a CLEAN EDIT...while listening to these hard tracks...that's just amazing. I can't think of a better way to speak out about the resolution and detail of the midrange than to point out a fine edit. Seriously...WOW.
Pointing out the highs in most IEM's is utterly pointless, especially when it comes to information past 11kHz as lot of people have a hard time hearing these upper registers. Most of the information you get from the highs is shimmer and ambiance. If you can hear shimmer and ambiance - get the C4.
The Vitruvian Man...a symbol of perfection
Usually I go into details about certain albums and why I use them for test low bass, bass, mids, highs, resolution, etc. I don't feel the need to do that in this review.
The reason is that I feel that once you get a C4, you yourself will discover the wonderful qualities, inaccuracies, and who knows what in your already existing music library. You'll be able to hear Dave Grohl harmonize with Kurt Cobain in" In Bloom" from Nevermind. You will be able to hear synthesizers mixed in with the accordion in "Graceland" from Paul Simon's Graceland. If you listen closely, you will also be able to hear George Harrison go from clean to crunchy guitar on "Come Together" when he clicks his effects pedal on Abbey Road. You can hear the click. You will also be able to hear people talking in the middle of the recording "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" as sung by Ray Charles.
Audiophile Worthy Albums....
As I said before, there are many headphones that can do justice to the low-lows, the bass, the mids, the highs and the tiny details. There even fewer that can more than two of these well...but to get all of these right, along with perfect three dimensional soundstage and accurate tone, clarity and speed...well...that's rare indeed....but that's the C4 for you. Explosively good.
You might argue that I did this review using a pricey Lavry DAC...maybe I used my custom amps...perhaps I played back these tracks from a master tape being played back on an Ampex ATR100 directly to the A/D converter via my Sontec parametric EQ. You can guess any number of scenarios and you'd probably be wrong. My playback chain for the review was a Clip+ (playing FLAC via Rockbox) -> C4. Simplicity at its best and sound that any mortal man would consider divine. It's definitely something that's attainable to the vast majority of head-fi members and certainly less money that other treble peaked monstrosities.
I started writing about perfection. Perfection, in the broad sense of the word, is a state of completeness and flawlessness. I subscribe to the Aristotelian concept of perfection. This simply means that for something to be perfect, it needs to be complete...that is, there should be nothing to add or subtract. The Frogbeats C4 is perfect to me…I would want nothing to be added or subtracted. This is a CIEM for those who want their CIEM to be nothing but the sound. That is the C4. It is sonically nothing and that is quite the perfect thing to be in my honest opinion. The Frogbeats C4 gets my highest recommendation for being the best IEM I have ever heard at any price point.
I won't even bother with a "star" rating...just get your wallet and go to Frogbeats and get a C4.
If you do get a C4 you must be prepared for the one negative aspect of the C4....you won't be able to share it!
Edited by LFF - 9/28/12 at 1:45pm