Summary – Right off the bat, it is easily perceivable that CE4 loosely follows the Harman Target curve till the upper mids but with a V-shaped character and a nice twist and zing at the top end – 64 Audio’s Tia driver style of upper treble! Compared to Harman Target curve, CE4 has smidgen less sub-bass, slightly fuller lower mids body, slightly easier upper mids, easy smooth lower treble but instead focusing on the upper treble range with nice Tia driver character for that airy and open upper treble presence and extension.
With strong technical capabilities, it’s also highly musical with a nice wide soundstage which engulfed and threw me into the performance of the song, taking the gear out of the equation and that is definitely what a good IEM should do, be it for a music fan or a musician using it for live monitoring. If I really had to nitpick, I’d probably like a bit more of lower treble, slight wide cut around 250-500Hz and a smidgen lesser of mid-bass but to be fair, the stock tuning is highly musical and enjoyable nevertheless and all my complaining is just me nitpicking as a reviewer. This kind of quality coming from a new young brand that is just a year and a half old is very cool and impressive.
Having said that, let’s dig in deeper…
Bass – Bass is pretty well tuned for an all BA setup. It has good sub-bass presence and extends till the deep end well without any perceivable roll-off. It has more mid-bass presence though, slightly north of Harman-neutral, which definitely takes things into the fun realm. A slight tilt towards sub-bass than mid-bass would’ve made things better for me personally but I enjoy this in most songs nonetheless as it sure is fun. Overall, bass is quick, has good transients with attack on the neutral side, neither too sharp nor too smooth. Be it Muse’s ‘Panic Station’, One Republic’s ‘Rescue Me’ or Karnivool’s ‘Simple Boy’, bass in all those songs has good presence, is fun along with being technically proficient.
Mids – Upper midrange is forwardly presented like the Harman Target CE4 loosely follows, though it is slightly on the easier side of the target curve. I personally would’ve been okay with a bit more bite and presence here but that’s just the engineer in me talking and wanting as close to a reference presentation as possible, especially when an IEM is tuned in that ballpark. Instruments nevertheless have good clarity, presence and definition and this easier side of Harman upper mids actually works very well if you like to boost your volume levels for some enthusiastic listening. I’ve been listening to Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro records on the CE4 like crazy at nice fun volume levels and loving it! Lower mids in the 500Hz-1kHz range are very neutral, clean and clear. They are slightly on the fuller side in the 250-400Hz range than neutral and that along with mid-bass adds a slightly fuller body in the region which takes away from clean precision and leads to the IEM sounding slightly fuller/warmer. 2-3dBs of cut in this range would’ve been perfect but again, all this is me nitpicking with my personal preferences. People who like IEMs like Fearless S8F, S6Rui and Andromeda, which have much fuller lower mids than neutral and find Harman Target IEMs like Moondrop S8 a little on the thin side would actually like this presentation more.
Treble – CE4’s lower treble is quite smooth. In fact, I would’ve liked a bit more spank and presence here in the 5k-9kHz range, which would’ve been the icing on the already tasty cake but to be fair, the smoother treble does make CE4 a slightly warmer and interesting listen, and also makes it easier to boost volume levels for that enthusiastic loud listening without introducing any fatigue. This also works nicely in case of a live monitor for musicians in concerts, where one would want to keep the drum cymbals spankiness and vocal sibilance in check. So, of course, CE4 is free of any sibilance or splashy/sparkly cymbals.
Upper treble is CE4’s secret weapon as Jed managed to tune in 64 Audio Tia driver style of upper treble presence and extension. He told me that he loves the air octave of the frequency spectrum a lot and him being a drummer, it doesn’t surprise me at all. The upper treble character enables CE4 to have good clarity, openness, airiness as well as sparkle and zing factor which makes songs come alive without any intrusiveness, a bit like how U12t does it with its tia driver upper treble. Because of this treble tuning, one also perceives more details and a nice wide and open soundscape without any fatigue.
Soundstage and Imaging.
CE4 has a nice wide soundstage which spreads out with boundaries just beyond the ears and is very fun, addictive and immersive. Depth is good too though not as deep as width is wide. Imaging is on the average side as the instruments do not have pinpoint precision owing to the smoother lower treble tuning. It is not an imaging king but for the price range and overall signature, it’s totally fine. CE4 definitely makes up for that in soundstage very well. I don’t think I know of an IEM that does soundstage this well in its price segment.
CustomArt Fibae7 (€1100) – Fibae7 is substantially more expensive and this might not seem like a fair comparison but this is me dropping the ball and saying that CE4 sounds like a baby Fibae7 up until lower treble comes in. Don’t believe me? Go compare their graphs or audition them and see/hear for yourself. I’m not saying that CE4 competes with Fibae7 shoulder to shoulder or sounds exactly like it, nope it does not! Fibae7 is one of my favourite IEMs and definitely a landmark IEM at €1100 which is tough to beat but CE4 gets close in the ballpark sound signature of Fibae7, sacrificing a few things here and there, with a little more upper treble zing but at a more affordable price. Fibae7 is a more refined sound signature overall (closer to TOTL levels) and does lower treble, overall resolution, instrument definition and imaging much better as well as comes with their signature Flat Impedance tech and more premium accessories like a Null Audio Arete UP-OCC Litz cable and Pelican 1010 case. Both do soundstage really well but Fibae7’s boundaries as well as the instruments are more defined in the stage. Fibae7 is definitely a steal at its price but if you want a baby Fibae7 till you can accumulate the moolah for the real deal, give CE4 a shot.
Moondrop S8 ($699)– Moondrop S8 follows the Harman Target curve more firmly whereas CE4 is more a loose but romantic and fun take on it with some twist and zing. S8’s upper mids are slightly more forward and prominent whereas CE4 is a smidgen easier and would probably be easier for people who like their upper mids served a tad bit easier than Harman-neutral, while still forward enough for good instrument definition. Both S8 and CE4 have similar sub-bass but CE4 has slightly more mid-bass which makes S8 more neutral and CE4 slightly more on the fun side. S8’s lower mids in the 250-500Hz are cleaner and neutral whereas CE4 has slightly fuller and warmer body there. They are similar-ish from there to the upper mids. S8’s lower treble is more neutral and slightly more prominent whereas CE4 is smoother in comparison. CE4 has Tia style upper treble which brings in some nice zing and liveliness in songs for some good fun whereas S8 sounds more reference and neutral here. CE4 has a more fun soundstage with it being wider whereas S8 is more layered and deeper but not as wide. S8 has better imaging and resolution owing to its lower treble tuning.
DUNU DK-3001 Pro ($469)– CE4 has slightly more v-shaped quality compared to DK-3001Pro. CE4 has slightly more bass quantity with quicker transients whereas DK-3001Pro is warmer and more rounded. DK-3001Pro has slightly fuller lower mids in the 400-1kHz area. CE4 has better defined forward upper midrange whereas DK-3001Pro has more forward lower treble which also results in it having slightly sharper imaging. CE4 has much better upper treble extension, openness and air along with a wider soundstage in comparison.
Tansio Mirai TSMR-6 (Default Switch 020 | $529) – CE4 has much better sub-bass and mid-bass presence, impact and quantity than TSMR-6. TSMR-6 has slightly leaner and cleaner lower midrange whereas CE4 has a fuller and more natural lower midrange in comparison. TSMR-6 has much more forward upper midrage which comes out as shouty. CE4’s upper midrange is much easier and has more natural instrument tonality and timbre. TSMR-6 has more lower treble quantity whereas CE4 has much better upper treble quantity, air and extension. CE4 also has a wider and more engulfing soundstage where TSMR-6 has a more vertically taller soundstage.
Craft Ears as a new, young one-man company has highly impressed me with their craftsmanship, build quality and tuning ability. CE4 is a nice loose romantic take on the Harman Target with tia style of upper treble air and a wide soundstage. It is highly musical with very good technical capabilities and will work equally well as a CIEM for musicians as well as a companion for audiophiles for their daily musical needs. I can’t wait to try it as a live monitor myself once concerts resume post the pandemic. Most of the nitpicking I did here is subjective to my personal preferences and easy to overlook because of how musical, fun and engulfing CE4 is. I highly recommend everyone to try the CE4, especially as a CIEM, because this is top notch quality and fit. It is surely a nice IEM to have in your collection or even as a primary workhorse for people with a strict budget around this price point. Next up is their flagship CIEM Six. Let’s see how that plays against CE4 and the competition. Stay tuned!
Gear used for testing and review.
- DAPs – iBasso DX160 | Hiby R6 Pro
- Laptop – Apple Macbook Pro 15″
- Audio Interfaces – Universal Audio Apollo | Focusrite Clarett 8PreX
- Phone – OnePlus 7 Pro
Reference Songs list.
- Foo Fighters – The Pretender, Best of you & Everlong
- Coldplay – Paradise, Up in flames & Everglow + Everyday Life Album
- Biffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings & Ellipsis albums
- Ed Sheeran – Thinking out loud, Bloodstream & Galway Girl
- Dave Matthews Band – Come Tomorrow album
- Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia album
- Chainsmokers – Somebody, Sickboy, This Feeling & Closer
- John Mayer – Slow dancing in a burning room, Stop this Train & Say
- Gavin James – Always & Hearts on fire
- Switchfoot – Meant to live & Dare you to move
- Porcupine Tree – Sound of Muzak, Blackest Eyes & .3
- Our Lady Peace – Do You Like It & Innocent
- Linkin Park – Papercut, Somewhere I belong & Talking to myself
- Maroon 5 – She will be loved, Payphone & Lost stars
- Lifehouse – All in all & Come back down
- Breaking Benjamin – Diary of Jane
- Karnivool – Simple boy & Goliath
- Dead Letter Circus – Real you
- I Am Giant – Purple heart, City limits & Transmission
- Muse – Panic station
- James Bay – Hold back the river