Cosmic Ears BA4: Jewel In The Crown

Sound

When using customs and balanced armatures, some things are very important. The fit, because that will influence the sound quality a lot, and the fact that Balanced Armatures do not sound “warm” and “smooth” like dynamic drivers. I recently read a review of a custom iem by someone who started off by saying his fit wasn’t good and that one unit kept falling out of his ear, he then continued by saying the sound quality was awful. Go figure.

Another very important thing is that these BA4 are very sensitive in the way that if you have crappy source files, you will get really crappy sound. But look at it the other way around: when you have good files, like most of us who are serious about audio have, the result on the BA4 will be impressive. The clarity and detail level is impressive.

But let’s get serious now, how does the BA4 really sound? Well, in general you can say the BA4 is a neutral sounding and linear tuned earphone. Neutral and linear however does not mean boring sounding and it’s actually very musical and because of it being the original F(un) version, the bass is perfectly tight,  deep and has just the right amount of body without getting out of line. The optional R(eference) version has less bass body.

Overall: The BA4 is very accurate. Two keywords are Clarity and Detail. These monitors have heaps of that but only in a good way, they never get boring in any way. Sound stage is good too but they could be a bit wider leaving more space between the instruments. Left-right balance and positioning/3-dimensionality are exceptional, another very strong point that combined with the clarity and detail make a terrific sounding monitor.

The BA4 doesn’t really need amplification but I would suggest using an amp at all time as it definitely makes the BA4 perform better. I myself used it continuously with the Cypherlabs Theorem (which is a high-end portable amplifier with a neutral and very spacious detailed sound) and with the JDSLabs C5D. (review soon!)

Bass: Great deep bass if called for with several layers of detail. Bass is tight, fast and has a good punch, it doesn’t overpower any of the mids. Bass body is in line with the rest of the sound, that means it isn’t especially boosted like most popular iems nowadays. This means this monitor isn’t for the regular bass head wanting big body bass, they will need to have a look at another monitor configuration. I myself can appreciate some extra bass sometimes and with some dance music I turned to the C5(D) amp by JDSLabs where I used the Bass Boost to get that bit extra. The overall sound quality compared to my regular setup (the Cypherlabs) dropped, but bass body was “upped”. For all other musical genres however ninety percent of the time I just used the Theorem amp or the C5D without bass boost. If your fit is right, bass will be good.

Treble: Is extended and very clear with lovely detail. Well controlled highs. Treble was implemented well and it’s especially audible with high quality recordings. In all honesty I do think treble could be further extended but it did not really bother me.

Mids: While the mids are not the warmest or most romantic sounding, I find them to fit in perfectly with the bass and the treble. I like the mids but at the same time I don’t feel there’s something specific to report about them. The real strength of the mids and the BA4 is that it all comes together perfectly as a total, you get a complete clear detailed sound with good bass and everything just fits right in. That’s what makes this monitor so great.

Gear & Conclusion

I’ve been testing the BA4 mostly with the Cypherlabs Theorem and an iPod but also with the JDSLabs C5 and C5D and Fiio’s X3 player. The big advantage with the last one is that you can EQ the bass a little should you want that (instead of using an extra amplifier). As usual I threw all musical genres at it from Classical to Blue Grass to Jazz and German Rap (yes, rap is everywhere nowadays) and I liked it all just as much. Only genres needing big body bass might require another configuration. And again, that doesn’t mean bass isn’t good. It is! There’s a big difference between bass quality and body/impact.

So in the end I can only confirm Cosmic Ear’s “jewel in the crown” statement*. Ever since I received and started using the BA4 I haven’t used a single other IEM for my listening pleasure. This thing is so good overall that I don’t ever want to go back to universal iems. (fit and sound quality). I wonder how the six driver version will sound and I think I have a pretty good idea looking at sound stage, treble extension and maybe even the mids section (Bigger body).

The BA4’s price starts at 330€/$450! I don’t think there is a better price/quality value on the market. That combined with the excellent customer service makes this BA4 definitely a winner.

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

27 Comments

  • Reply December 13, 2013

    George Lai

    My BA3 is being made right now in Sweden too.

  • Reply December 13, 2013

    Sagar Shankar

    USD450!! Wow, thats definitely a great price

    • Reply December 14, 2013

      L.

      Very good prices and top quality!

  • Reply December 14, 2013

    alan tan

    thinking to myself: 2nd CIEM? hmm

    • Reply December 14, 2013

      L.

      You know you want it #thicke
      😉

  • Reply January 6, 2014

    Erik Wijnands

    These things LOOK absolutely fantastic!

    • Reply January 6, 2014

      L.

      And they sound great too!

  • Reply January 8, 2014

    rob

    these are my next purchase; I’m always looking for tight, fast, accurate bass and so far my triplefi10’s do that better than anything else i own…Im hoping these will be an evolution of that.

  • Reply January 8, 2014

    ohm image

    The clockwork detailing is great.

    • Reply January 8, 2014

      L.

      It’s clear they put a lot of effort in it. It is very nice indeed

      • Reply January 10, 2014

        ohm image

        Indeed. And it’s nice to see someone from the old country marking the map.

  • Reply January 18, 2014

    Barbar

    Hello. Im kinda confused and need some help. I have iBasso dx50 and I would like to buy an iem or ciem that would last for couple years. I decided to buy Earsonics sm64, pfe 232 or cosmic ears ba4 and I need to decide fast. I mostly listen post-rock, progressive, Trip-hop, indie. Can you help me to decide which to buy?

    • Reply January 18, 2014

      L.

      I don’t know the Earsonics or PFE sound signature, sorry.

    • Reply January 18, 2014

      ohm image

      Barbar, no one can answer which earphone is best for which genre; that decision is best left to preference. But if you tell us what sound you like (and sound is different to genre), we may be able to help. I own several of the earphones mentioned in this thread. Recently, I chose the SM64 as my top-flight earphone of the year.

      But that doesn’t mean it will be your favourite. What do you like in music? Separation? Space? Bass? Smooth mids? Detailed upper mids/highs? Low sensitivity (and therefore low background noise). That will help us.

    • Reply January 21, 2014

      Mike

      I’m not a fan of the SM64 and the PFE. And I’ve never heard the BA4.

      The UE TF10 is an easy choice.

    • Reply January 21, 2014

      rob

      I currently DX50 and the UETrippleFi10 and I really like it. I may get a pair of BA4 at some point, but I fully intend to keep my UE as universal.

    • Reply January 29, 2014

      SallyMaeSusan

      If you don’t wish to spend a huge amount, Shure’s SE425’s are exceedingly good value; check out review at What HiFi.

  • Reply May 15, 2014

    Vasilis Rapanakis

    Hi I have got in touch with Phil inquiring about a CIEM after managing to completely destroy the left driver of my inear SD2. Any impressions on how the BA4 and the SD 2 compare? I also have an HF5 but find it very light in bass and not really a signature I enjoy very much how does the BA4 compare to that? Many thanks for any feedback.

    • Reply May 15, 2014

      L.

      The BA4 is quite different from the SD2 (which I don’t have anymore) unless you go for the Reference model. The F(un) model will have more bass and sound smoother.

      While I really liked the SD2 and 3, I would pick the BA4 over it anytime. It’s just a nicer experience in total. The SD might be better in details though, especially the 2

      • Reply May 15, 2014

        Vasilis Rapanakis

        Thanks a lot for the reply, but just one more q, is even the BA4R model lacking in detail to SD2?

        • Reply May 15, 2014

          L.

          I couldn’t possibly say. And I should maybe correct myself. The difference probably isn’t that big. the SD2 is more of a “detail monster” in the treble section while the BA4F is more musical and has a lot better mids and bass.

          • Reply May 15, 2014

            Vasilis Rapanakis

            Thanks a ton Lieven. Sometimes I wonder if you all should start charging for this kind of service 😀

            • Reply May 15, 2014

              L.

              be careful what you wish for 😉
              Btw we will review the new CE CE6P very soon!

              • Reply May 15, 2014

                Vasilis Rapanakis

                I was looking for more info on the CE6P but is that the BA6? because i can’t find any more info on their site for anything by that name.

                • Reply May 15, 2014

                  L.

                  We will have the world premier for that, it will be their first 6 driver. I should have it next week… (the old BA6 will be named the CE6P)

                  • Reply May 17, 2014

                    Vasilis Rapanakis

                    That’s very good timing 🙂 Can’t wait for the review of the CE6P (do you know btw what the P stands for?) and hopefully some inevitable comparisons to the BA4 (What is really called the CE4).

                    • May 17, 2014

                      L.

                      P(rofessional)

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