The Craft Ears Craft 4 is a Polish-made quad balanced armature driver custom monitor with a price starting at a very competitive €550.
Disclaimer: The Craft Ears Craft 4 sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank Craft Ears for this opportunity.
To read up on more custom monitors reviewed on Headfonics you can click here.
Poland is bopping right now with a very healthy custom monitor manufacturer scene. We are used to reviewing products from the likes of Custom Art, Lime Ears and Spiral Ear so it is possibly no surprise to see another newcomer pop up.
This time it is a brand called Craft Ears whose founder, Jędrzej Nowicki, is well known on the European touring scene as a drummer of some skill. Not only that but he also produces and composes.
The two aspects go hand in hand as a major factor in not only why he has decided to set up CIEM production but also the specific artist he wants to target with his offerings.
Craft Ears offer two units at the time of writing, the Craft 2 and the Craft 4. Both are BA driver Monitors with the number signifying the driver count. That means 2 inside the Craft 2 and 4 inside the Craft 4, which is the one we have here cooking for initial impressions and a full review.
The Craft 2 is orientated more for midrange enthusiasts and is sold as having a balanced to slightly warm vocal centric sound. The Craft 4, on the other hand, is pitched for those that like a bit more low-end presence and aimed at the drummer or bass guitarist or simply those who like a bit more bass.
The driver configuration is a dual (sub)woofer, a single mid driver and a single super-tweeter driver for the highs. It uses a four-way, complex crossover with a three-way acoustical bore design. The driver type is all Sonion and the whole ensemble is rated at a fairly easy to drive 10Ω. I do not have the SPL currently so I hope to get that before the main review.
Unboxing & Accessories
This is a fairly simple unboxing experience. I am not sure at this point if the review process entailed a paired down packaging experience and if you, the customer, will get more when you elect to buy directly. That being said, it is not an unusual packaging for a competitively priced CIEM. You do have to remember that it is €550.
My package came with a single Pelican 1010 with a carabiner hook already attached. Inside you get a silica dehumidifier, a cleaning brush/pick and the monitors with the stock cable. Nothing fancy here and not too dissimilar to the likes of Custom Art sans black shoebox.
I do hope Craft Ear can add something like a small manual and some literature in due course just for some additional personalization and brand reinforcement.
The design is beautiful, however. Now we will talk more about the design process in the main review is it is a shade trickier than I imagined it would be.
However, this particular design was something I saw in their gallery online and I do recommend you look there first for inspiration. It may not be clear what is possible in terms of design for the Craft 4 from the online designer tool until you see the pics.
There is no official name that I am aware of for this so I will give it one and just call it Purple Nebula. It does follow the typical design lines of a nebula custom but there are some flecks in there of gold that suggests some gold flakes have been added for highlights.
It is really tastefully done with a harmonious integration between shell and faceplate. Nothing worse than an obvious two-tone clash of body and plate on CIEMs, at least for me. The silver ‘C’ logo is also nicely inset and doesn’t feel added on cheaply to the faceplate.
Because it is a BA driver monitor there are no bass vents and the overall form factor is reasonably small for a custom. The polished finish also looks pro-level with no obvious imperfections, especially around the flush 2-pin 0.78mm sockets.
The stock cable seems to be a 1.2m 4-core SPC with strong memory hooks and pretty much the typical “Plastics One” variant you tend to find at this price point. I am ok with that from a commercial point of view because quality aftermarket cables will add about $80 upwards onto the overall cost of ownership.
However, it will not the best performer sonically. These cables tend to be fairly resistive with a thin gauge so my tip is to swap it out for something like a Satin Audio Medusa, PW Audio No10 or something from Effect Audio’s Vogue range. They do not cost the earth and will open up the Craft 4 signature nicely.
What the stock cable does well is in handling and microphonics which is always a strong trait for these types of cables. This is a light and very quiet cable with no memory retention. It handles superbly. Keep this if that is important to you otherwise, upgrade.
Comfort & Isolation
The fit is perfect, but then again, it should be since it is a custom. However, there are degrees of perfection in custom designs. Some are fairly relaxed meaning if you sit still it works well but open the jaw or move around a lot and you can break the seal. These tend to value comfort over stability.
The Craft 4 is a bit more to the stability side as I would have expected if pro-audiences are the key market here. There is slightly more pressure on the canal and the nozzle is suitable long. I am fairly confident these won’t pop out if you start going doing a lot of physical activity.
The isolation is excellent as you would expect from an all-BA monitor with no bass vent. That additional pressure in the canal does a nice job of canceling out background noise from the aircon in our office.
Of course, the excellence of the comfort and seal in these will be determined by the quality of ear impressions you sent to Craft Ears so make sure you get those right. I sent digital scans, ones I am confident in and they came back exactly as I expected.
Initial Sound Impressions
(Initial impressions below are done with a FiiO M11, M15, Cayin N6ii/E01, and the Craft Ears Craft 4 using the stock cable).
First up these are not super sensitive monitors in the Zeus, Andromeda or Solaris class. They are easy to drive but I would place the SPL a little lower around 107-112dB as they need a bit more current than the aforementioned sensitive monitors.
They also perform very well indeed for noise floors that tend to exhibit a bit of hiss such as the FiiO M11 which was dead quiet on its unbalanced output. So also the N6ii with the new E01 motherboard Class A and Class AB output.
At this point, we do not have an issue with the efficiency and sensitivity of the Craft 4. It seems to be hitting a sweet spot for volume and a lack of hiss from sources.
This is relatively emphasized at both ends of the spectrum but to describe it as v-shaped is a little on the crude side. The emphasis in the tuning is more focused on bringing out the best in percussion, both in terms of clarity and timbre. To that end, it has a nice overall balance to it.
That means a little more mid-bass punch than sub-bass rumble or a slow decay as well as an upper mids emphasis. The treble tuning is clean but not so forward as to create an unnatural percussion timbre. This is tight but natural-sound for cymbal and hi-hat work with a level of decay does not linger that much.
Now is there enough true sub-bass presence for the likes of dub-step track mixing in the studio? I am not too sure about that. At least not compared to a dynamic driver there might be less space to thin out the bass for kick drum channel mixing.
However, for percussion and traditional Trance mixing which needs a more rapid BPM and those aiming for a tighter level of timing then the dual-sub BA drivers do have the speed to keep up and more than a decent fundamental to prevent it from sounding too shallow.
The Craft 4 also seems to dip the lower-mids in requesting fashion to keep the bass from bleeding into the mids. The instrumental tone is light but smooth and clean with good separation. Male vocals are easy to pick out even if not that forward. Female vocals that pitch higher in a mixed or head voice/falsettos do much better on the Craft 4.
It is, of course, very early days to pass any final comments on the Craft 4. For that, you will have to wait for the full review in due course. I can say for sure we will be rolling that stock cable and trying a few different sources to get more insight into its level of efficiency.
For now, this is a monitor with a focus on some good depth and power for a BA low-end and a clean enhanced upper-mids performance with good percussion timbre. I will stop short of saying v-shaped because I feel the tuning is a shade more complex than that. It doesn’t sound veiled or dark in any of the pairings we have done to date.
The price feels good on initial impression and it is always nice to see companies launch affordable customs in this day and age. Stay Tuned!