(Old rating 4.5 - New 4.0 : considering current competition in price bracket)
Simple Man’s review – Advanced M4 (39.99 USD);
This is called simple man’s review because they are based on the sound of these earphones directly from my mobile phone (HTC 10), using 320 Kbps mp3 tracks. No expensive gears nor lossless tracks,no EQ, and all that hi-fi stuff.
Product Specs :
Driver: Custom tuned 6mm Single Dynamic drivers
Impedance: 16 Ohms; Sensitivity: 92dB at 1Khz
Cable: Non-detachable, 1.36 m, with one button in-line remote/microphone
Build – 4.5/5
These earphones are built to last, clearly. It sports an extremely tough cord, twisted to avoid tangle, connected to strong and tiny aluminium housings. It also has a nice one button mic to attend calls, and these aren’t flimsy either. As a side effect these tough wires aren’t very flexible, but that’s no negative in my book. The wires are very, very similar to the massdrop Pinnacle PX cable with the same Y splitter and all. Only the M4 cables and remote are slightly thinner in comparison, sans the neck cinch and MMCX connectors. Great attention is given to the build. Deducting 0.5 for lack of detachable cable. Not that I expect these wires to break, but detachable cable would have given me the choice to go wireless.
Accessories – 5/5
Advanced has given us all we need, and then some.
We get one pair of Comply Foam tips,
dual flange silicon tips (3 sizes),
black single flange silicon (3 sizes),
and black single flange silicon (3 sizes).
Plus, a shirt clip.
That’s a lot of tips for rolling. It is very thoughtful of them to throw in white and black tips. I love it. And the silicon tips are of good quality with a tight stem and a decently broad bore (this is somewhere in between the Sony hybrids and the JVC spirals). These are compatible with 90 percent of the earphones.
Plus, we also get a premium spacious carrying case, the same as what they provide with the upper model Advanced Model 3. This pouch can accommodate any IEM in the market.
We don’t get any extra adapters for airlines or amps, but I have never found any use for them. And the Simple Man just doesn’t need it. Excellent value for money.
Isolation & Sound leakage – 4.5/5
Isolation and fit is very good. Sound leakage is almost nil.
Fit – 4.5/5
This can satisfy both of us: Those that prefer around-the-ears, and those that go for a straight-down conventional approach. And the earphones fit good, and stay there. The light weight housings of the earphones are also very commendable and adds to the comfort.
Microphonics – 4/5
When I wear them around-the-ear, touch noise never bothers me with the music on. Straight down, it is present when you are mobile.
Before we get to the sound:
You must know that i don’t listen to trance, EDM, or bassy stuff, no metal stuff, so, take my opinion about the extremes of the sound spectrum, and speed,etc., with a grain of salt, as they are just based on the kind of music I listen to- namely Jazz, blues, some progressive rock from the 70s/80s. However, to give a fair review, i include some of my favourite Daft Punk, Tool, NIN, and some Pop songs among my test tracks.
I would call them exactly what Advanced calls them: Naturally balanced sound signature. It tends towards neutral – the mids and the “presence region”, 2-4 Khz, are brought to the front, with a very well behaved bass that is on the lighter side in quantity, with a very slight mid-bass hump to add to the natural quality and timbre. They are very transparent sounding. They are nice and easy to drive with my HTC10.
The eartips I choose for the M4 are the Audio technica silicon earbuds. These eartips, with short tight stems, usually enhance the bass a bit, which is why I rarely ever use them, and which is why it is very apt for the M4s slightly bass shy signature. This adds more body to the music. These M4s (and Ocharaku Chonmage 3) are the only IEMs where I use my ATH eartips, and I thank them immensely for making these eartips useful.
With the stock tips, the bass, especially the sub bass, doesn’t show itself very easily. Although you can hear it playing down low with soft impact. However, this is remedied to a significant extent when using ATH tips. These enhance the bass and bring more sub-bass impact to the fore – meaning to a neutral level. The mid bass is ever so slightly above neutral with a little bump. This adds more body and musicality to the music without which the IEM would sound downright analytical and flat.
The bass is more about quality than quantity, and in short very well behaved. The drums sound great, with natural timbre. The detailing is not very aggressive, but very decent nonetheless.
The mids are the main players here. They are up front. They display impressive details in the music and are very transparent. The vocals are perfectly done. Both male and female vocals stand out and capture the listener’s attention. In my experience, Advanced always does vocals well. You can perceive all the breaths the singers take, the sighs they make and what-not. You can easily perceive all the different instruments used in the song. They also show impressive instrument separation for a sub 40 dollar IEM.
The lower treble is accented. The presence region throws a lot of details to your face. There is no sibilance whatsoever. The flute floats up high, the cymbals soar in the soundstage, and they splash about to satisfaction. Above 10 Khz they start dropping gradually. Nothing alarming. Although the micro details are there to a good level, they aren’t mindblowing like etymotic or some high-end stuff. It’s all very decent and very very nicely done, and it’s really awesome when you think they are less than 40 dollars.
Now, let’s do some interesting comparisons with Japan’s sub-50 super-stars.
Advanced M4 (~$39) vs Final E2000 (~$36)
Why? Final E2000 is the latest rage in amazing value for money. Let’s see how the M4 stands against the even cheaper E2000.
M4 isolates better because of its closed back design vs the open back of E2000. Both have light aluminium housings. M4 has better build and more durable wires. M4 needs a little more juice to feel the bass.
Switching from M4 to E2000, I can’t help notice the different approach they took in tuning their earpieces. The M4 is much flatter than the E2000. E2000 is warmer and bassier in comparison, but it manages to be bassy and still avoids bleeding into the midrange. The M4 doesn’t sugar coat the output and tries to present exactly what is produced.
Switching from M4 to E2000, it feels like a bunch of noise and sounds were eliminated in the E2000. It appears so because the background of the E2000 is black. This black backdrop is typical of Final earphones which makes their earphones so musical, IMO. With E2000, the sounds are so localised and the decay is so tastefully done that they have their own little space and time in the stage. They appear and disappear into the blackness that they spawned from. This gives a certain magical aspect to the E2000 making them immensely enjoyable. The musical nuances in the treble region are presented very subtly and delicately, which upon noticing fills the listener with awe and enjoyment. The highs have more shimmer as well. The timbre of E2000 is also spot on. Nevertheless, it must be noted that the E2000 chooses to sacrifice certain micro-details to achieve this presentation. The M4 is a more transparent phone in comparison, while the E2000 is a smooth operator.
The M4, as marketed, is tuned like a monitor. It presents as much sounds as it can reproduce, faithfully, to the listener so he can have a look at them. The soundstage of the M4 is similar to other monitoreque earphones, like Etymotic, where the music is presented in a two dimensional space. The soundstage of the E2000 is very dynamic and has more depth.
If you want musical enjoyment, with extra bass and subtle high frequencies, you must go for E2000. If you want use earphones for monitoring and mixing, go for the M4s. It doesn’t differentiate between different frequencies, you can’t go wrong with this.
Advanced M4 (~$39) vs Donguri Shizuku (~$39)
Why? Same price
Drivability is the same. Build quality is also pretty much the same. Advanced provides more accessories.
These 2 earphones sound much similar than different. Both are super transparent, have a similar overall signature. Donguri has more bass impact, it has a slightly bigger mid bass hump, very nicely done. And, the Donguri unit also has a more accented presence-region, throwing a lot of shimmer on the highs. This gives the Shizuku a taller stage, and a more fun experience. You can’t help falling in love with the bell-like quality of the highs. The Shizuku model also sounds clearer compared the M4.
Moving from M4 to Shizuku, it sounds like every instrument and sound has better definition. Not by a big margin, but you can perceive the extra clarity. Separation is slightly better in Shizuku as well. M4 has slightly thicker notes in comparison and has a more earthy feel to it. The male vocals are more authentic in M4, whereas in Shizuku (like all donguri models) they appear to have a higher pitch. Donguri is better suited for female vocals.
M4 is the more balanced and more linear phone, but Shizuku has its own advantages. M4 is better suited to monitoring as the highs aren’t exaggerated. Shizuku, if you’re predominantly listening to female vocals and if you you love some treble.
Advanced M4 (~$39) vs ATH LS50 (~$50)
Why? Let’s see how it stacks against ATH’s 50 dollar IEM.
Drivability is easier with LS50 compared to M4. Build is slightly better in the M4, but you got the detachable cable on the LS50.
These two are more different than similar. Switching from M4 to LS50, you perceive more bass in the LS50, and highs are also brought forward. LS50 is evidently a more towards a V shaped or W shaped tuning with vocals brought to the front. Some instruments pop up better than others in the ATH tuning. The sound is a little coloured. The highs in LS50 drops earlier than M4. Sound definition and clarity is slightly better with the M4. It also brings out more micro-details compared to the ATH unit.
Mids of the LS50 are a little muddled in comparison. M4 comes across as the cleaner phone.
Overall, I would say the M4 is a better model (for my preferences)
Overall Sound rating of Advanced M4:
Instrument Separation 4/5
A great stepping stone to neutral signature. You cannot get better balanced sounding earphones for this money. Without much damage to your wallet you can check and confirm if your taste lies is towards neutral signature or not. I don’t know of any other IEM that ticks so many boxes at this price range. A very, very decent analytical phone that sounds natural. These have great build quality and comfort. I have a number of more expensive neutral earphones, but these still get a good amount of ear time because they are comfy, can take a beating, and they sound good enough. I truly appreciate Advanced for going for such a mature tuning in its first model. I can’t wait to get my hands on their next offering.