Craft Ears is a new custom in-ear monitor manufacturer hailing from Poland. Their target audience is audiophiles and musicians and they work closely with many local artists, providing high-quality stage monitors. In this review, I’m checking out the Craft Ears Craft FOUR, a 4-driver custom in-ear monitor with 4 balanced armature drivers and a 4-way crossover. Let’s get into it.
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Craft Ears Craft FOUR Review
Great build quality and aesthetic
Detail and instrument separation
May lack bass impact for some
Slightly analytical tonal balance
The Craft FOUR was designed for musicians, by musicians. Featuring dual (sub)woofer, single mid driver and single super tweeter drivers and four-way, complex crossover with three-way acoustic bore design.
Build and Design
Knowing that Craft Ears was a relatively new brand, I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of build quality. Needless to say, the first time I opened the box and laid my eyes on these monitors, I was delighted with what I saw.
Craft Ears uses the latest 3D printing technology in their manufacturing process and the results speak for themselves. My customs came with stunning blue shells that have a subtle green swirl mixed in and sparkle under the light.
Inlaid into the faceplates is real American chestnut wood which contrasts beautifully with the blue shells. In addition, a silver-coloured Craft Ears logo is embedded on each faceplate and the outcome is easily one of my favourite CIEM design to date.
Every part of the surface is curved and smooth all over with no visible flaws. So, it seems that Craft Ears already has their 3D printing process down to a fine art. I must say, in terms of build quality alone, these are of a very high standard.
You can specify the details of the design you want via the order form on the Craft Ears website. It allows you to choose shell colours plus faceplate and custom logo designs. If you have a specific idea in mind for a custom design, you can also request that on the form or talk to someone via email to get exactly what you’re looking for.
Fit, Comfort and Noise Isolation
As I say in all my custom in-ear reviews, the fit and comfort rely first and foremost on getting a good set of ear impressions. When ordering a set of Craft Ears customs, you can either send them a set of physical or digital impressions. The advantages of digital impressions are that you don’t have to wait or pay for shipping.
The set I received is very comfortable and the shells are similar to my Itsfit Fusion and Custom Art FIBAE Black, both of which were 3D printed as well. Noise isolation is comparable with my other CIEMs and again depends on having good ear impressions and a good fit. With the Craft FOUR in my ears, I can’t really hear a darn thing going on around me and that’s the whole idea, right?
From the get-go, the Craft FOUR’s stage monitoring pedigree can be heard in the accuracy of its timbre. But you’ll notice something else right away: the FOUR is a musical IEM too. It is uncommonly detailed – unusual considering the warmth of its tonality and relatively calm upper treble.
Craft FOUR is defined by its upper midrange and lower treble emphasis backed up by a speedy and light but warm bass. While it could be labelled as a predominantly technical IEM, its core treble dip ensures that there isn’t an all-encompassing brightness – a trait that’s often necessary in the pursuit of extreme detail retrieval.
Craft FOUR has a light, punchy bass that focuses on speed and accuracy. Despite its speed, however, it has a lovely, natural decay which gives it body and fullness. This is a typically fast BA bass that never feels lethargic or gets bogged down: it will keep up with all types of demanding music with nimbleness and poise.
Bass extension is really outstanding and it’s rare to see such a linear transition from mid to sub-bass and so little fall off with a multi-BA IEM. It may not be the most impactful or hard-hitting but it is sufficient enough to be engaging.
Sub-bass rumble is light and controlled and the mid-bass is punchy but reserved, leaving lots of room for the mids to shine and adding to the openness of the stage. Hans Zimmer’s “X-MP” is a track that showcases FOUR’s bass speed and agility. The frenetic energy of the drums can be an obstacle for lesser IEMs but the Craft FOUR doesn’t even break a sweat. In addition, the bass doesn’t mask or smother any of the finer background details in the track.
The transition from the upper bass to the lower midrange is a gentle slope that eases in carrying warmth and giving the sound body. When we get to the core mids though, they’re quite neutral but still have good note size so they don’t sound anaemic or unduly analytical.
Then there is a fairly rapid lift in the upper midrange that makes vocals and guitars really come alive. It brings the midrange quite forward which is intensified by the lower treble plateau (more on this later) and the relatively neutral level of the bass. Craft FOUR has a very vibrant and articulate midrange that’s full of presence and sparkle.
In Julian Javan’s “Adagio” Craft FOUR presents the vocals and guitars with clarity and definition and lifts them well above the lengthy bass notes. The presentation is airy and light with abundant presence and space between instruments.
Powered by a Sonion E25ST001 treble driver, FOUR’s sound signature could be called bright. But it’s not a brightness caused by an aggressive upper treble. Rather, it’s a more like a linear plateau that’s raised from the upper midrange all the way to the upper treble.
Now, keep in mind that the bass is reasonably neutral and this treble plateau is only slightly north of neutral as well. Rather than raising these areas, FOUR attenuates the midrange and part of the upper treble instead. This doesn’t make the midrange recessed in the least – quite the opposite as the mids and especially the upper mids are well forward in the resulting presentation. This is an intelligent tuning that delivers loads of detail without the often associated harsh side effects.
FOUR cuts around 10kHz to avoid any piercing or sizzle and this works particularly well as it stays smooth without any significant loss of detail. The upper treble is then lifted again after the dip and by doing so provides plenty of air without compromising timbre.
Craft FOUR creates a large stage, enhanced by its airiness, upper treble extension and reserved low end. It’s a particularly wide stage but one that also creates ample depth in front of the listener. Separation is excellent and creates a stable image with clearly discernible layers. There’s still a little warmth in the air so it doesn’t feel stale or clinical, just open and organized. Vocals and stage position are both neutral – neither intimate or distant but a comfortable in-between.
Custom Art FIBAE 3 ($593)
The Custom Art FIBAE 3 (review here) is a triple-BA driver IEM with a loosely similar tuning i.e. one that is balanced with a slight focus on the midrange. FIBAE 3 has more mid-bass and this gives it a warmer general tonality.
Throughout the midrange, FIBAE 3 has a thicker presentation with more rounded notes and a smoother presentation. Craft FOUR is leaner, has faster transients and greater definition. The Custom Art romanticizes vocals more with added richness and softer edges. Craft Four, in comparison, makes vocals more upfront and vivid but in a less smooth manner.
FIBAE 3 and Craft FOUR both have a detailed but reasonably smooth treble. Craft FOUR’s treble is slightly more forward which, in conjunction with the leaner midrange and lighter bass creates an airier stage with slightly increased instrument separation. While this aspect of the Craft FOUR’s presentation gives it a slight edge in stage dimensions and detail, the FIBAE 3’s slightly warmer tone feels more natural.
Empire Ears Bravado ($599)
The Empire Ears Bravado (review here) is a hybrid dual-driver (1DD+1BA) iem. It has a starkly contrasting approach compared to Craft FOUR. This one is about all-out fun with its big, impactful bass and laid back treble.
Bravado’s bass is bold, powerful and has a slow, thick presentation. But it does have great texture and pleasing warmth to it. Its sub-bass rumble can really be felt too, in a way that only a dynamic driver can deliver. In comparison, Craft FOUR’s bass is light, tight and punchy. It’s much tidier in comparison and tuned more for detail than outright impact.
Mids have less clarity and are more recessed than the Craft FOUR. Somehow the Bravado still manages to have pretty good detail retrieval and a large stage. The FOUR’s midrange is more forward and has greater transparency. Vocals are more articulated and clear and the tonality, on the whole, is brighter.
Bravado has a very easygoing treble that’s feathered and non-fatiguing. Despite that, it still feels quite airy and the stage has good dimensions. Craft FOUR, on the other hand, has a starker, more accurate treble, giving it a brighter presentation and improved imaging.
Craft FOUR is a unique IEM that is a blend of accuracy and musicality. It manages to be highly detailed without needing to resort to an aggressive treble. With its mixture of light warmth plus an upper midrange and lower treble elevation, it has a sound that leans towards bright but remains fairly smooth.
Moreover, Craft Ears is designing and building shells that look and feel truly premium which is surprising for such a young company. They’ve come out of the gate with the bar raised high and I very much look forward to what they do next.