Time for more impressions! These are actually very easy to assess after being a fan of the pinhole blocked UE 900 (sound, not build!) and coming from the EX-1000. Simply put, these are UE 900 done right. Mids are more forward (but not a much as with Shure), bass is way more powerful and enveloping without being loose or splashy, highs are less rolled off. Soundstage is larger, the bass gives the soundstage more depth and width. The only thing where the UE 900 wins is initial apparent detail due to its lack of bass quantity (quality is there!) and more importantly UE 900 has slightly superior instrument separation, actually UE 900 is the best I´ve ever heard in that regard. All in all the FA4´s sound connects more, works nicer in noisier environments - it´s simply more powerful and grand. It´s simply a superior IEM in both sound quality and build (not much competition there, heh!)
It´s so close to the UE 900 sound that I bet if Logitech licensed the design from FA for the upcoming (unless Logitech decides to exit the IEM market entirely, which does not make much sense) UE 950, it would be a huge commercial and critical success and would eventually be as fondly remembered as the Triple.fi 10. Without Logitech´s brand name and marketing the FA is bound to stay a rare treat. I´m glad Kurdt-bada made this thread and I found these. The FA4 is my new reference all rounder IEM.
Some short comparisons to gear I´ve owned in the past:
- Sennheiser IE 800: FA4 has less detail retrieval in the mids and slightly less instrument separation, but a way, way better balanced overall tuning. The IE800 sub bass hits hard and is always there, regardless if the track actually calls for it. FA4 is less harsh on poor recordings (although they still sound bad, don´t get me wrong). FA4´s vocals have more warmth due to the mid bass boost (all bass is boosted on FA4, not just sub bass like in the Sennheiser) and are also more forward than in the Sennheiser. All in all I´d say IE 800 is superior technically, but FA4 is not that far and is certainly able to hang in the same company. The IE800 tuning however is simply not for me (I would call it a bass head IEM), while the FA4 strikes a great balance between fun and neutrality. The complete deal breaker with the IE 800 for me was the cable microphonics however, the FA4 has none of that. Both have superb ergonomics with my ears. Because of the more balanced tuning and the way FA4 makes music fun without colouring it too much makes me choose the FA4 over the IE 800.
- EarSonics SM64: the ES IEM has less forward mids and a more V-shape sound than the FA4. The FA4 is always slightly V-shaped, but it´s done so well you don´t really perceive it as such. The mids aren´t sunk in a hole like sometimes with the SM64. SM64 has more bass quantity, but with less quality (it´s a tad loose). Actually the SM64 is a nice bass head IEM, it has an intentionally splashy sound that some will love and others hate. I liked it, but it isn´t exactly neutral. The highs on the SM64 are more rolled off and the soundstage is presented differently. SM64 sounds more like sound is coming from every direction while the FA4 has more forward staging. Detail retrieval is definitely higher on the FA4, I found the SM64 very forgiving of poor recordings. Build quality is no contest, FA4 wins easy. Soundstage is a bit larger on the SM64, but also less precise and directional. The SM64 is an IEM that pushes its own signature sound into all music, FA4 has more genre bandwidth and is technically superior. They are very differently tuned in the end, but the FA4 is simply a more balanced product with more mass market appeal. Some might prefer the SM64 bass, but for me the FA4 strikes a good balance there. SM64´s bass was sometimes too much and more importantly not as controlled as I would like. It really depends on the song though. Mids and highs is where I would give the nod the the FA4, but if you are looking for a more organic (at the expense of detail plus that flavour is pushed into the music regardless of the source material) coloured sound you might prefer the SM64.
- Sony EX-1000: as reported on this thread, FA4 wins in resolution, mids, imaging, highs (no more nasty treble spike!), comfort, but on the other hand the EX-1000 sounds more cohesive and can with the right source material pull a larger more out of the head soundstage. With vocals, classical music and so forth the EX-1000 has a pretty unique flavour that many might prefer to the FA4, but with anything even remotely mainstream music the FA4 is more suitable. Bass is a mixed bag: EX-1000 still wins in bass quality, it´s possibly the tightest bass I´ve heard from an IEM. Coupled with the lack of isolation the quantity is just not enough for outdoor use though. FA4 quantity is perfect: enough to help outdoors without making the IEM useless indoors (indoors it just sounds more "fun"). The EX-1000 tuning is to me aimed at classical, vocals and jazz. Both are good IEMs, but the FA4 is the more complete package. EX-1000 is a more niche product with some major downfalls, FA4 is simply well balanced in all regards.
Conclusion: FA4 is the best all rounder IEM I´ve ever heard, my UE 900 (which is falling apart) will be relegated to gym duty as long as it works. I´ll possibly keep the EX-1000 around for silent room classical/acoustic music listening, but 95% of the time I´ll be listening to FA4 from now on. Pro tip for Logitech: license this design for the next UE universal flagship ;)