People who are in the market for hi-fi players are willing to live with UI shortcomings and big physical dimensions, as long as the player gives them the ultimate sound quality. And so the real test comes with an A-B comparison with two of the most popular player today: the HM-801 and the HM-602. The HM-602, seen as a second-tier player on the Hifiman line, is not quite the proper challenger. That leaves us only with the HM-801. Comparing the C4 with the HM-801, there are two primary differences: the HM-801 is darker and has a lot more bass weight, while the C4 is brighter and leaner on the mid and bottom. Pairing with the HD800, the C4 feels too light, while the HM-801 gives a nice addition to the fairly mild bottom end of the HD800. But that’s a matter of synergy, and I can see how some people would prefer the C4’s brighter signature over the HM-801. Having a brighter signature always helps in perceived detail due to more treble presence, and in this case, the C4 does benefit from that effect. Upon short listening sessions, the C4 sounds nicely detailed and with a big soundstage. However, after longer listening sessions, I can clearly hear that the HM-801 has a much better level of micro-details, ambience, and soundstage depth, though the soundstage is slightly narrower than the C4. Comparing with the HM-602, the C4 again has a much wider soundstage, but not so good on depth, micro-details and ambience. Of course this was a disappointment for most of us, as we expected this new product to better the HM-801 player.
Listening to vocals with the HD800, I find the vocals on the C4 to be very similar to the HM-801, but with less sibilance. Vocals are a little more forward, which gives better sense of intimacy, but it also suffers from a little glare. Bass weight and impact is also lesser with the C4 when compared with the Hifiman HM-801, but the frequency balance seems more linear on the C4 than on the HM-801. Overall, I think the upperhand on the sound quality still falls to the HM-801 player, though people who feels that the HM-801 is too dark would prefer the C4’s presentation.
As I’m using Google to find more information about the Colorfly C4, I found out that Colorful is a manufacturer of computer graphic cards. I don’t know how they decide to start making Hi-fi players, but the Colorfly C4 has all the good elements in place for a high end portable player. It seems that they really have done their homework to find out what the market wants, and they came up with a product that fills the demand quite nicely. The vintage look may be a shocker in this Ipod era, but it is quite nice for the people who’s into vintage designs (me being one). A lot of the features, such as the slider volume control, the EQ button and the resampling button can be said to be the first in the market, and it makes the C4 stand out among the pack. The 24/192 ability is quite controversial, as it turns out that none of the three players we have around can’t play 24-bit files, but the resampling feature, up to 24/192 is quite nifty, though I prefer to stick with 24/96 as I find the sound to be more analog than 24/192. Overall, I think Colorfly is quite successful in launching their first Hi-fi portable player, and I expect to see more Hi-fi products from Colorfly in the future.
Gears used for review:
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, JHAudio JH16Pro
Source: Colorfly C4, Hifiman HM-801, HM-602
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