ADVANCED M4 Earphone Review by mark2410
Thanks to ADVANCED for the sample.
TLDR? Try here http://www.head-fi.org/t/826131/advanced-m4-earphone-review-by-mark2410#post_13015683
First Impressions: The box would appear to be a pretty ordinary affair, though I do spot through the little window that they appear to have Comply’s on them. That’s unusual, not to have them but for them to be on the buds out of the box. Fine by me as you can bet they would have been what I’d have swapped to immediately anyway. Opening it up and all your bits are in the case, hmm nice case actually nothing special but functional. Then inside we have a shirt clip and a little poly bag of tips. That looks rather a lot too for something at this price point. Ooooh goodness me look at the cable. That’s some serious braiding at work there!!! Ooooooh it’s the two wires from each bud then braided into a four wire thingy all the way from Y splitter to jack. Super pretty. It also just screams professional too doesn’t it, for a wire it really looks the part.
In the ears and not bad. Nice mids, good bass solidity and fluidity. Treble seems a little less pronounced which is always fine by me. It’s a good balance actually though there is a spike in the lower treble somewhere, hmm must track that down. Still it’s a pretty good, pleasing and well balanced IEM. I need to go rake out the M6 pro I think, I can see these two going head to head. These I can really see why they are being marketed with the moniker, naturally balanced. I like these. Not thrill machines but highly pleasing.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and a Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.
Lows: Ahh remember I said I’d be pulling out the M6pro, well I did and these are much lighter in the bass. They are particularly so as you reach deep these do not try to cling on tight. They diminish, a hair rapidly but the quality holds fast and it’s a rather linear decline. Pleasing and which it isn’t the most fun, the 6pro’s are a bit more so, these are the more mature product. These really do deserve their naturally balanced descriptor. The bass is clean, really very clean at this pricing, almost BA clean. They do have a super tiny enclosure so I assume they must have a small driver. It’s curious but I cannot see anywhere any mention of the driver’s size, which is unusual. They are really quite excellent in their bass quality and I find myself putting the m6pro away and reaching for the RE-00 instead. What’s a little disturbing is that they aren’t all that far apart these and the 00. These are fuller, more heavy in the bass a bit but not by the most colossal amounts, they are more RE-400 like. If you know what these things are you’ll know that it’s getting itself discussed in the same breath as some rarefied company. I can see why these started life at US$100. Having dropped waaay down to US$40 these are bloody excellent. Just be aware the bass is grown up, mature, naturalistic and while it’s more abundant than is strictly neutral they won’t please a lot of consumers who like very heavy bass.
Tonality these are rather middling, a dash warm and a smidge elevated but they are very accurate and have a faintly soft outer layer. This soft layer thins the more power you throw at them. These are on the whole considerably more concerned with the quality of the bass than its abundance. Actually they seem very well suited to more an acoustic musical style. Simple, heavily vocal, lows that are gentle, clean and masterful in their composure.
Mids: These are, so sayeth the box, “emphasis on the midrange for abundant details” and that’s a pretty apt description. While they aren’t properly mid centric like a PL-50 but the mids are relatively forward compared with most mids. The bass is close to them, maybe just a tiny bit behind in quantity. I get the impression that ADV is aiming these at the starting musician market. Okay so they put on the box, designed for musicians, yep I can totally agree with that. These would be little stars for a starting out band or church choir stuff, you know, its almost Christmas and I’m aware from music playing friends that they are currently pulling out all the stops to get choir’s and whatnot ready to milk parents and shoppers alike of their money. These are super little bargain monitors.
Tonality wise they are a little soft, a little warmed bet only ever so gently warmed. Vocals are not the crispest but they are nicely rendered and well-articulated. Male and girly vocals alike are very pleasingly rendered. Nicely rounded and clean. Lol you know these are really nice but really nice doesn’t make for dramatic and exciting writing.
Highs: Ahh here they do a great, nay, excellent job an outstanding job for US$40. They are really good for the price but they aren’t flawless. They aren’t as refined and detailed as I’d have wanted if they were still US$100 yet that price cut propels them to holy crap these are pretty damn good territory. Though I’d note that if you start to throw more complex pieces at them them they can’t quite keep up, a good showing certainly and they have nothing to be ashamed about. For 40 bucks they do very well and they retain that very natural balance. However my ears are treble sensitive and primed to extract the finest details and these do get a little scratchy. A highly admirable showing and one I can’t really find fault with for their price. As a monitor goes these come in so cheaply yet they are tailored mostly to shine in the mid and bass ranges.
Tonality they are a teeny bitty warmed, again I go back to their being a rather naturalistic sound. That nice balance, that realism especially apparent in acoustic stuff. These have the right feel to them. I know mentally they make the odd slip here and there in the highs but they capture the essence of what is trying to be portrayed. It’s the balance, these have just that somewhat indefinable something and it works.
Soundstage: These are more monitor esq and which their bass can from time to sound grandiose esq they are for the most part, you and they in a good sized room. Dimensionality is fine but the distance is ever a little middling, neither highly distant nor up close and intimate. It is a well-integrated sound.
Fit: Great. Shoved in ears, deal done.
Comfort: Like with the fit, in they went and done. No muss no fuss happy to wear them all day.
Aesthetics: They are nice. I like bare metal and thus there are nice nothing super mega awesome but nice, attractive but nothing special. Well, the buds aren’t but come one, that quad braided cable, that looks kick ass doesn’t it? For something that just cost $40 that cable looks just awesome.
Isolation: They are dynamics but pretty good. Towards the better end of dynamics so easily fine for out and about and use on a bus. Probably not so much for Tube or flights but would do in a pinch. So of course that means they are easily enough that if you have music playing you won’t hear traffic, so please remember to use your eyes lest you end up spending Christmas in hospital.
Phone Use: These do have a little mic on them and a single button. So no volume controls but you can answer, play pause etc etc. I was told I was clear but a little quiet when I made a call so seemed all fine really. I was wearing them up so the mic was rather nearer my ear than my mouth so that’s probably it. Usable but you maybe have to raise your voice a touch.
Accessories: You get a pretty good bundle. The case seems rather good, you get a fair old number of tips too, 10 pairs I believe, 3 biflange tips, 3 “black” silicone ones and 3 white silicone tips too. Then they come with a pair of Comply’s on them so tip wise that’s a pretty good haul of bits. I don’t think you could really ask for more.
Amped/Unamped: These did just fine out of weaker sources, even the Nexus 5 sounded pretty good. There was a variation in the output quality that was most apparent in the treble, the weaker sources made the uppers more smoothed and rounded. More power and more cool and dry options made things a little more edgy and brittle. So overall their tonality was probably at its most pleasing when driven more mildly. So they would work great out of whatever, no big amp needed at all.
Value: Well had these been still at US$100 I’d have had some complaints about the treble but having been cut to just US$40, that seems like a huge cut. They are a truly most excellent option at that price. Really in every aspect, from acoustically to their bundle to the build these are a steal at that price. They aren’t bass cannons so if you need “all of da bass” then these aren’t for you but for aspiring musicians, people who need something cheap yet grown up sounding, damn they are good value for money. Oh and they seem to have a 3 year warranty, which is crazy on a cheap product like this, you really can’t say they aren’t a bargain.
Conclusion: Ahh so in so many ways these aren’t an exciting product. You know they just aren’t. They of course aren’t intended to be nor are they tuned to be so. They are aiming as a grown up, mature, naturalistic presentation that want to be true to the musical acoustics. Pleasing, unadulterated, natural, realistic and easy on the ear. No boosted bass, no dazzling highs, no added drama so they become a product that on paper, doesn’t sound exciting. Well they aren’t exciting. What they are is good. They not only sound good, they are good in every aspect from that fab braided cable to the metal buds these are a product that does seem more at home in the $100 area than it does in the $40, at $40 you just don’t usually see cables like that, buds alike nor tuned like they are. These are going for a considerably more cultivated sound and audience.
Down side wise, well if they still $100 I’d have to bash them a bit for the treble and I’d need to point out that many consumers would be unhappy with their bass capabilities. These aren’t highly bassy, they are much more middy than many people are used to. Still if you’re a budding artist, then these are excellent, for vocalists, acoustic guitar, strings in general they have more focus and more pleasing presentation than a lot of things out there. More mainstream consumers though aren’t likely to be all that chuffed with the bass output. They don’t move a ton of air, it isn’t especially hard hitting and it doesn’t do that boosted as it goes down thing. This isn’t so much a consumer orientated IEM but like the box says, designed for musicians.
So would I / should you buy one? Me yep. I love middy things and these push my buttons. At $100 I’d balk but at 40 bucks, unless you’re a bass head, which I’m not what’s not to like? For you? Well yeah, again unless you want gobs of bass then these are great little buggers. Sure the bass isn’t going to make everyone happy but that’s like bitching that your beautifully prepared steak you don’t like because it hasn’t been smeared with ketchup. You tastes are your tastes and these will not appeal to everyone, it’s very simple an issue. These are a much more naturalist, pushing to almost neutral bass levels and that’s not for everyone. Otherwise, for those who want something more politely capable, more monitor like, you know you’re mastering your budding bands stuff, for balancing out your church choir, for mastering the audio of your up-and-coming new YouTube show. You know, for things where you want a grown-up acoustic balance and presentation but you haven’t quite made for first million. A highly fine offering here from ADVANCED and at a bargain price too.