The Craft Ears Craft 4 is a Polish-designed four balanced armature driver custom monitor with a very competitive price starting at €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.
Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2020 which you can read up on here.
So, this is our full review now of the Custom Craft Ears Craft 4 monitor, and for those that have already read our initial impressions feel free to flick onto pages 2 and 3 for more detailed sound impressions and comparison work. For everyone coming to this review for the first time then do read on.
Note, we will be taking a quick walkthrough of their online purchasing process on page 1 which for many in 2020s logistical nightmare takes on a new level of consumer importance.
Craft Ears hailed from Poland which has been a rich source of custom monitors in the last few years with Lime Ears and Custom Art being quite active, not to mention Spiral Ears. Their 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 so quite a busy guy.
These 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 artists he wanted to target with each unique offering.
Craft Ears now offer 3 units, the Craft 2, Craft 4, and their new Craft 6. All are BA driver Monitors with the number signifying the driver count. That means 2 inside the Craft 2 and 4 inside the Craft 4, with their new flagship Craft 6 using a configuration of 6 BA drivers.
The Craft 2 is orientated more for midrange enthusiasts and is sold as having a balanced to slightly warm vocal centric sound. The Craft 6 is tuned for accuracy and pitched as their most balanced offering to date.
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.
The Craft Ears designer experience is a little different from interactive design software with its form-based submission process.
Whilst the options are very easy to understand and chose, the lack of an instant update of your design choice with the accompanying picture might leave you a bit in the dark as to what the final purchase will look like. There are some free form string boxes also such as color for the shells and faceplates that might leave you pondering on your creative writing skills.
To that end, Craft Ears does have an extensive CIEM gallery with the names of their actual shell and faceplates underneath each picture in their “Works” category. ‘
I strongly suggest you do have a look at them before ordering as some of the designs are very creative and it can help inspire your choice. You can also email them in advance with specific designs for confirmation they are possible.
You do get a good range of design options covering the body, shell, logo, artwork and cable. Though the choices therein each option are not hugely extensive they are very creative such as the forged carbon fiber and the greenwood in the above pictures. If you like the designs you simply state them in each section of the form where applicable.
In our case, we went for a Gold Galaxy faceplate and a purple with gold glitter shell as well as Craft Ears logos on each faceplate. You do have some additional options on the form including glitter, wood, and 2 carbon fiber faceplate options, (silver and black) and you can see how some of that shape up in the “Works” page real-life examples.
Keep an eye out at the bottom of the screen as some of the options do have an associated additional fee for left and right and both sides and it will add up.
Thankfully, Craft Ear fees for the material options are very competitive at €10-15 per side max so not exactly bank-busting add-ons. The most expensive of which is a Personalized Premium PeiliCase at €35. If you do not fancy that you can get the same case sans personalization free of charge.
Guides & Impressions
The final part of the process in the form filling is a little short section to add anything specific or personal to you. Once completed I presume you will pay but since our review process was different I cannot give you an exact outline of what happens after.
What I do know is once both parties agree you will be required to send in your impressions and you can do this in 2 ways. The first is the traditional audiologist impressions and courier them to their head office in Poland.
Ear impressions should be done with an open jaw position and a full ear impression to the second bend of your ear canal. That will mean you will need to bring a bite block to your audiologist to keep your jaw steady whilst open to prevent the clay impressions from poorly curing.
Then it is a simple case of packing them securely and sending them to Craft Ears through your favored courier. I always recommend a small hard food container and a little bit of tissue to prevent them from moving around too much. Not too much tissue as you do not want pressure on the molds from deforming them during transit.
The second potential route and one worth discussing is via digital ear scans. Now, not every audiologist can offer that but if they can then getting a full uncut scan to the second bend, and emailing them to Craft Ears will save on time, money via courier, and packaging as well as reduce the carbon footprint. Something I highly recommend.
Packaging & Accessories
This is a fairly simple unboxing experience with an unbranded Peli Case. 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 and if you want more, such as a higher degree of personalization, then you have to pay more.
My package came with a single Peli Case 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.
Meet The Craft 4
The design is beautiful, 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. The pics labeling should help you a lot in terms of how to replicate each design.
There is no official name that I am aware of for this so I gave it a pet name of Purple Nebula. However, it does have a breakdown of Gold Galaxy faceplates and a purple with a gold glitter shell. It does follow the typical design lines of a nebula custom but the glitter is more like flakes to me and something I much prefer over standard glitter finishes.
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 does not 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 sockets themselves look to be firmly in place and so far in my testing, I have had no concerns about them possibly sinking into the shell with additional pin pressure from the supplied cable. Currently, Craft ears do not offer an MMCX option for their custom monitor line-up.
The stock cable seems to be a 1.2m 4-core SPC with strong memory hooks and pretty much the typical “Plastics One” experience 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 in terms of dynamic range.
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 will not 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.
Click on Page 2 below for sound impressions & comparisons