Final Audio Heaven IV Review
Thanks to Hifiheadphones for the loan.
First Impressions: Box, it looks like a normal box. Open the box and holy mother of Christ!!! Before you is the most amazing looking IEM case I’ve ever beheld. I’ll suspect it may not be the world’s most practical but my god would you just look at the thing!!!! Just wow, simply wow.
Venturing inside the case there are the IEM’s and they too look quite exquisite. If you are vain then this could be the set up for you, these are the best looking IEM’s I’ve seen in ages. Slapping them in my ears, they feel very open and detailed. Rather light in the low end and somewhat ER4 like up top I think. Lots of detail but perhaps erring towards the gritty. Its a very light and lovely sound. I think this may be an audiophile pleaser but not so much a “mainstream” consumer crowd pleaser.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-601, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5.
Lows: For quite some time what I was hearing was simply not matching up with what I was reading from others about these. Over and over I was reading that the bass was great, of reasonable fullness too and I was not hearing it all. It turns out that I was letting these sit rather more shallow than others. Once you get them shoved in good and deep the bass begins to make itself known. If you put it up against mainstream dynamics the quantity is rather lacking. However for me the natural competition for the IV is the ER4 and side by side the IV feels massive and deeply scaled. RAAAAARRRR. It really is dependent on getting a very deep fit, or was for me. Then its lower end comes to life and reminds me of the “moving armature” IEM’s. Some halfway house between a BA and a dynamic. You get a hint of the scale and vigour dynamics are capable but retaining most of the lighting speed and solidity of BA’s. I’m not sure if it’s enough to please everyone and I’m not sure how I feel about it.
It texture is pretty good. Its quantity is fairly sized. Still I find for me it’s not got the best aspects of either and while many speak exceedingly highly of it, it’s just not doing it for me. If I was only to have one IEM then maybe I’d appreciate its versatility more but I have lots so…..
Mids: Things here are rather more to my liking. While BA’s can sound mesmerizingly clear they forego a little fullness and can sound slightly unnatural. They can strip out any vocal richness and a certain naturalness to its timbre. The IV’s retain a bit of this organic quality that while sacrificing a little clarity giving it a lovely “natural” quality. Its gently smooth, the faintest hint of additional warmth to offer a relatively silky vocal reproduction. Still my ear tells me it’s so close to the achingly detailed and nuanced ER4. I cannot help but feel they are falling into the same trap as the EB-50 did. Trying to be a bit of both worlds and just not quite nailing it. Where I felt they did nail it was with Regina Spektor’s vocals. She sounded epically glorious on them. Enough nuance yet with a healthy dose of her ethereally bizarre vocal dynamism. She was thrilling and captivating to hear. Then, foolishly I put the q-JAYS in my ears. The Heavens felt so slow beside them, slow and inarticulate. Still they did have that slightly more natural quality to them so I’m reluctant to say the q’s are “better” but… well I personally would be picking the little baby JAYS every time.
I can’t help recalling the e-Q7 and their “moving armature” tech. Essentially a BA plugged to something bigger and edging itself towards the abilities of a dynamic. Sadly while many seem wildly enamoured with the Heaven IV’s presentation, every time compare it, it just feels like a halfway measure. Yes it’s good but a proper BA can do vocals better. Great width, great scale and convincingly accurate, but a proper BA has greater articulation and clarity.
Highs: Erm, well a bit so so. It’s not that there is anything particularly wrong with the treble but it’s a tad ill refined. When songs start getting fast paced the driver, trying to do reasonable bass just can’t do everything at once. The first place issues become noticeable is always in the highs. Normally they are pretty clean with a tiny bit of an edge going on. It’s a little bit laid back, it tends to let the mids have centre stage and the highs will gently and accurately play away. Detail levels are quite good and likely to be cleaner and crisper than most dynamics but, well these are expensive and its competition is excellent. The ER4 just feels so much more aggressively pin sharp and things like the IE8 or 272 can shimmer and sparkle circles round the Heaven IV.
Soundstage: I must grant the Heaven’s some kudos here. When you A/B there with the ER4 these sound stupendously vast and the Ety’s like a tiny needle point of sound. As a BA IEM goes these are exceedingly large and grand in their presentation. Even when doing something intimate sounding it still sounds like it’s in a vast hall with some real space to breathe. Simply put, for a BA the breadth and width here is vast. Instrument placement is slightly diffuse but in that great sound scape its of minimal consequence.
Fit: I tend not to love flat cables for wearing up, as is how I prefer to wear things, here it was fine. Worn up or down there gave no issues and was a case of, shove in and done. They did sound best when shoved in a bit far though.
Comfort: Good. These did sound better when shove in deep but their large bore meant that wasn’t wildly comfortable for many hours of use. Then if you let them sit more shallow they were perfect for comfort but its aural talents were diminished.
Microphonics: Worn up, more or less none. Worn down it was quite annoying, this was not helped by no chin slider.
Amped/Unamped: They were rather easy to drive and as such worked just fine out of my phone. They did get more noticeably mid focused and the bass in particular lost some authority. Its move to a slightly more light but punchy sound as though the current just wasn’t there to really make it rumble. It wasn’t a huge change but it was noticeable. So if these are you daily driver I would have a wee look at getting an amp.
Isolation: Really rather good. It’s a little on the weak side for a BA but easily bests most dynamics out there. I’d be fine using these on a long flight or on the Tube. As ever, more than sufficient, even with no music playing to get you run over if you don’t look where you’re going.
Build Quality: First class all the way. The true test is using them every day for two years but from where I sit they look and feel great.
Accessories: you get a bunch of tips, two types of them. Then you get the most “look at meeeeeeeee!!!!!!!” case I have ever seen. It is arguably a beautiful thing but so attention grabbing its erring on the side of pretentious. It just screams look, I bought very expensive earphones don’t you know, yes they were expensive, pretty and cost a lot of money. I have better earphones than you, just look at how shiny they and their ”luxury” case is.
Value: Erm. How important is pretty to you? Acoustically these just don’t cut it value wise for me. They are expensive and I know that for that money I can get things that sound better. I have no issue buying things that don’t look impressive and come from some Chinese company normal people have never heard of. The Heaven IV’s are not bad sounding but you are clearly paying for them being so pretty and whatnot. As an all-round package I could see why some would be very happy with them, no doubt they would make a gorgeous looking Christmas gift for someone.
Conclusion: If these were a song it would be Nora Jones, “Wish I Could.” It’s got very little happening acoustically, its breathy and laboured. Its soft and lingering strings. It’s a lovely little serene scene laid out before and around you. Is it lovely? Why yes good sir it is, mightily lovely and pretty on the ear. I cannot though help but notice they are very highly spoken of elsewhere and so clearly many do love what they have to offer. In certain circumstances their mids are pretty fantastic and for lingering ballads they are gorgeous but…
You know, all of the problems I have with the IV is down to its price. I just can’t really bring myself to place a great value on the looks of something because for me, an IEM’s aesthetic value is merely incidental. It’s a bonus if something is pretty but I don’t actually care how it looks. I mean for god sake I’ve worn TF10’s in public. So the IV’s when I take them solely on their musical talents they just fall short. They haven’t the versatility I want in a generalist (like the DN-1000) and they haven’t got any particular stand out point of excellence (like the ER4) so as I swither back and forth I find that for me they just don’t wow me.
So, what about you, should you buy one. Let’s assume pretty matters because these do look lovely, and let’s face it, that case looks just wow! If you were perhaps buying a pair of earphones for a lady friend and you wanted something to make a visual statement then these will make a tremendous impression. They simply scream I am a premium object that getting someone an RE-400 cannot hope to achieve. The Heaven IV’s have a lovely ethereal sound for soft Jazz or Bossa Nova and visually they look transcendent, if those aspects are what you want then they make a fine choice.