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Cosmic Ears BA4f review

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

So I finally found the time to write a review on the Cosmic Ears BA4f cIEMs!

 

 

The BA4f with the Ice Blue color

 

 

Short History

Before I started my journey into the cIEM world, I knew it was going to be tricky for me. My ears are very small, and there's an extreme bend in my ear canal, my ear canal basically goes straight up. After sending my impressions to Cosmic Ears headquarters in Sweden, Phil insisted that I would use the prefit option. The fit was fine, but the finished earpieces were too flush! Yes too flush, it's possible. Despite my ears being small they also stick out a bit, so the cable connector pinched my ear badly. Luckily Phil was extremely helpful, and completely remade the earpieces free of charge.

 

My current favorite listening setup for the BA4f:

Audinst hud-mx1 + JDS O2 amp

 

 

Comfort and Usage

Since these are my first cIEMs I did not know what to expect. Since there's this extreme bend in my ear canal, I've never actually had anything in my ear canal before the visit to the audiologist! Luckily the comfort is amazing, like you would expect from any cIEM. Coming from headphones such as the senn HD25-1 II and the german maestro gmp 8.35D the isolation is amazing. In contrast to closed headphones, these actually isolate beneath 1K (yes closed headphones barely isolate lower frequencies). Which make these ideal to use in the proximity of large machinery such as trains and busses (or my drumkit).

 

 

Sound

The first thing I noticed was the incredible 'realness' of the sound. The signature is far from neutral with the boosted bass. But my mackie studio monitors, and the Mackie MR8 mk2 and the BA4f are quite similar in sound.

 

The frequency response sounds very 'straight' not as in neutral, but as in not jagged. Most frequency responses have terrible peaks and valleys in them, but I think the realness of the sound comes from the fairly smooth frequency curve.

Now there most certainly is a boost in the bass, but it's not that much. The presence of the bass seems to come more from extension and tightness, than from a big bass boost. I do like the bass a lot, it's very 'visceral' and detailed, but has great punch. That said, the midbass is boosted too much for me, which is why I tune down the midbass with an equalizer. 

The mids are indeed very real sounding, they have great clarity and seperation. However, I do feel like the (mid)bass boost takes away some clarity from the middle frequencies. Consequently, taking about 3db in the 150-250hz region does improve the overall clarity of the sound. This is to be expected of a fun signature though.

Back to the mids, I love male vocals, but higher vocals seem slightly distant in some cases. The quality of the vocals seems to be very recording dependent, just like the early review on the BA4r by Project86, the BA4f loves good recordings, good sources and will get very angry when served up with sh**ty equipment and music. The BA4f has become much less picky than the early BA4r, but it still gives you an honest representation of the music (something I love). The BA4f does seem to be aimed primarily at the bass and mids, the treble is there but it's definitely softer. Unlike something like the HD650, which is very warm sounding, the treble in the BA4f still has some sparkle and detail but as mentioned before it's a bit softer. Despite the softness, the treble has great detail, good extension, and again sounds very real! 

 

I have recently acquired the akg K702 anniversary edition full sized open headphones, and going back the BA4f makes it painfully clear that the treble is the weakest link in the BA4f. Although it's not quite fair to compare a cIEM to a full sized open headphone, I do feel that treble extension and detail is somewhat lacking in the BA4f. This is where there is room for improvement, and I hope to see an improved treble response in the new BA5 and BA6 models.

 

Soundstage, imaging and soundstage is a bit harder too judge, since this is my first cIEM, and my only other uIEM is the TDK BA200. First of all, I don't feel like it's lacking anything. The only headphone where I was actually so bothered by the soundstage that I had to return it was the senn HD25-1 II. There doesn't seem to be Any stage in that headphone!

In the BA4f I feel that seperation > imaging > soundstage. The stage is fairly small but very accurate, imaging is very, very solid, and seperation is quite superb. Again, it is recording dependant, listening to Ritual Union from Little Dragon gives a sudden increase in soundstage. 
I don't think I could expect much more from any < €400 cIEM. Soundstage does get bigger using better gear. When going from the DX50 to the O2 I am getting bigger stage, a stronger image, paired with a fuller sound, better clarity and slightly more 'shimmer'. 

 

 

Conclusion

The BA4f seems to be an incredible bargain at its current price point of €320. It's fullness and realness make me think it comes very close to the performance of the reference UERM, although the UERM is priced quite a bit higher. 
In short: the BA4f sounds very realistic and full paired with a very punchy visceral bass and slightly softer treble, but overall fantastic clarity. I'd rather have the bass boost cut off a bit earlier, it extends a bit to far towards the mids for me. But again, this is to be expected from a fun signature.

 

If you like your clarity above all else, I suggest the BA4r. But if you want more bass presence paired with that clarity, I do suggest the BA4f.


Edited by Marleybob217 - 11/12/13 at 2:03pm
post #2 of 9
Nice review, marleybob.

I find your sound description very similar to what I'm hearing on my CE cIEMs....but the odd thing is that I have "R" and not "F" version:rolleyes:

As for the soundstage (I assume that the soudstage is similar in both R and F versions) I would say that it's not very wide nor it isn't very deep; I would say that the soundstage is average (I guess this is very common for the reference monitors).

My impression is the same as yours - they are very dependent on the quality of the recordings. On some tracks I hear almost a little bit boomy sound, with a little bit veiled mids. On the other tracks everythins is very real, transparent and accurate and the highs are very prominent.
post #3 of 9

nice review :) thanks

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Krismarzyk View Post

Nice review, marleybob.

I find your sound description very similar to what I'm hearing on my CE cIEMs....but the odd thing is that I have "R" and not "F" version:rolleyes:

As for the soundstage (I assume that the soudstage is similar in both R and F versions) I would say that it's not very wide nor it isn't very deep; I would say that the soundstage is average (I guess this is very common for the reference monitors).

My impression is the same as yours - they are very dependent on the quality of the recordings. On some tracks I hear almost a little bit boomy sound, with a little bit veiled mids. On the other tracks everythins is very real, transparent and accurate and the highs are very prominent.

I think the BA4f currently only has a small bass boost that differentiates the BA4f from the BA4r. 

 

Reference monitors just aren't here to flatter the music! I guess a treble boost toggle would be helpful for that though...

post #5 of 9

Nice review :D. Just asking, how would you rate the attack/ decay on those? Do snare drums sound "sharp" or more rounded? As for decay, is it too long or short as some reference monitors tend to have short decays so as to sound transparent. Thanks XDDDDD

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by iamdacow View Post
 

Nice review :D. Just asking, how would you rate the attack/ decay on those? Do snare drums sound "sharp" or more rounded? As for decay, is it too long or short as some reference monitors tend to have short decays so as to sound transparent. Thanks XDDDDD

I'd say decay is somewhere in the middle. It haven't even noticed it! Cymbals do not linger, but they do sound nice and round. I would've liked them to linger slightly longer though.

Snare drums are generally very snappy sounding, just the way I like them :)

post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marleybob217 View Post

I think the BA4f currently only has a small bass boost that differentiates the BA4f from the BA4r. 

Reference monitors just aren't here to flatter the music! I guess a treble boost toggle would be helpful for that though...

I've just played around with EQ once again. First time I did it on the first day I've received my BA4r. For me they lacked the clarity on the highs a little and I was wondering why; so I bumped up the 6-10 kHz regions and this clarity appeared, but there was something still missing in the clarity or I would rather say that there was too much of the "authority" in the sound.

Today, I went the other way, I've lowered not the highs but the lows by 2db and I thik this is the answer to my question - why the heck BA4r lacked a little this clarity which I looked for in cIEMs. For me lowering the bass by 2db results in more balanced sound which still have this impact/power (in short Etys sound without treble peaks and with more fulness on the bass).

Since, Phil told me that the current version of BA4r has around 2db bump in the bass (in comparison to the original version) to eliminate the originally reported thinness in the bass I guess I would rather prefer the very first version of BA4r without this 2db bump in bass. For me, without this bump they sound more balanced.

I'm wondering though how much more bass is in BA4f. Probably I could not stand too much bass of BA4f:D. Definitely I'm anti-basshead.
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Krismarzyk View Post


I've just played around with EQ once again. First time I did it on the first day I've received my BA4r. For me they lacked the clarity on the highs a little and I was wondering why; so I bumped up the 6-10 kHz regions and this clarity appeared, but there was something still missing in the clarity or I would rather say that there was too much of the "authority" in the sound.

Today, I went the other way, I've lowered not the highs but the lows by 2db and I thik this is the answer to my question - why the heck BA4r lacked a little this clarity which I looked for in cIEMs. For me lowering the bass by 2db results in more balanced sound which still have this impact/power (in short Etys sound without treble peaks and with more fulness on the bass).

Since, Phil told me that the current version of BA4r has around 2db bump in the bass (in comparison to the original version) to eliminate the originally reported thinness in the bass I guess I would rather prefer the very first version of BA4r without this 2db bump in bass. For me, without this bump they sound more balanced.

I'm wondering though how much more bass is in BA4f. Probably I could not stand too much bass of BA4f:D. Definitely I'm anti-basshead.

A tip: If you want more treble you can 'horn' the treble nozzle. I suggest you send your pair back to Phil if you want it.

post #9 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marleybob217 View Post

A tip: If you want more treble you can 'horn' the treble nozzle. I suggest you send your pair back to Phil if you want it.

For me this little lack of clarity results not from lack of treble but from too much bass. I know that mor or less the result which I will receive by either bumping treble or lowering bass will be the same, but for me lowering the bass is much more natural way and the sound seemes for me to be more natural and balanced incomparison to bumping treble
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