Today we’re giving Headfonia readers our detailed impressions on the Polish Craft Ears Craft FOUR, which sells for €550.
Note: Craft Ears got in touch with us to see if our readers might be interested in hearing about their new CIEMs. They supplied the Craft FOUR free of charge in exchange for our honest thoughts and opinions, which are naturally our own. Our thanks go out to Jedrek and the team at Craft Ears for the opportunity.
Packed with Stage-craft.
Audiophiles are a peculiar bunch. We’re generally fussier and more nit-picking when it comes to the nuances of sound than the actual people who put their emotions out there on the line when they go about crafting the music that we end-up enjoying (and over-analysing). Alan Parsons famously quoted that “Audiophiles don’t use their equipment to listen to your music. Audiophiles use your music to listen to their equipment”.
“I was meant for the stage
I was meant for the curtain
I was meant to tread these boards
Of this much I am certain”
– The Decemberists
So with this in mind, it’s interesting to note that the ‘equipment’ that’s the subject of today’s review – the ‘Craft FOUR from Polish manufacturer Craft Ears – was designed by musicians, with musicians in mind. Jedrek Nowicki, the founder of Craft Ears is a professional drummer and composer by trade. Hailing from Poland, Jedrek created Craft Ears principally to help musicians perform on-stage thanks to what Craft Ears describe as ‘Perfectly Crafted Sound’. You might have seen close-up snaps of your favourite musicians performing on-stage wearing discreet IEMs tucked in and around their ears – yep, those are Custom In-Ear Monitors (CIEMs). Before audiophiles started elbowing their way into the CIEM scene, musicians have long used the perfect fit and isolation of CIEMs to allow for precise monitoring of both their own and their bandmates’ on-stage levels to help them perform at their best – even while their adulating crowd is creating a racket in front of them.
Craft Ears is a relative newcomer on the ever-expanding CIEM scene, entering with a sharply value-oriented lineup that starts with the €330 Craft TWO, a dual-BA design that they describe as being particularly suitable for guitarists, singers, and orchestral instrumentalists. The Craft FOUR is the current flagship of the Craft Ears lineup, adding two additional BA drivers as well as an extra €220 asking price over their entry-level brethren. Craft Ears describe that the intention behind the Craft FOUR is to provide “a little more low end” for drummers and bass players, but is also well-matched for keyboardists or anyone else looking to match that extra bass emphasis with some added brightness up-top. The Craft FOUR sets about accomplishing this courtesy of a four-way crossover linking a dual (sub)woofer, single mid driver and a single super-tweeter driver feeding a three-way acoustic bore.
My first dabble into the CIEM world
I mentioned in our First Look Sunday post for the Craft FOUR that I’ve never actually gone about getting CIEMs made before. I like to think of listening to music as something of a ‘ceremony’, and as such, I generally do it at home where I have the benefit of using my full-sized headphones and accompanying gear. Truth be told – IEMs have always felt like something of a compromise to me – something to be used when you need to travel lightly, or for use in less-than-perfect listening conditions like work, or on public transport. But, I’m also patently aware that there are some excellent IEMs available that can indeed offer a sharper price to performance ratio over their full-sized counterparts. And of course, many you fine people are ardent CIEM fans who’ve cottoned on to the fact that a perfectly sculpted fit will take their performance and utility to ever greater heights.
Naturally, I was curious to understand what the benefits of customised fit are like in a set of IEMs, as well as to hear how a device tuned with the stage in mind translates for sheer music enjoyment. And so, I jumped at the opportunity to craft a set of Craft FOUR with the Craft Ears team and evaluate them for Headfonia readers.
The first step to get things rolling was to get in touch with Jedrek at Craft Ears to discuss the personalisation process. Jedrek is a super-friendly and responsive guy and was quickly able to help me understand what visual customisations are possible, as well as how to get imprints of my inner ears from my home in Sydney over to Poland. Craft Ears are able to create CIEMs from digital scans if it’s possible to have them created from your local audiologist. But, not being able to find that service available in Sydney, I had to get moulds made from a local audiologist. The process was for quicker and less invasive than I thought it might be, and less than ten minutes after I stepped into the audiologists I walked-out with a pair of bright yellow moulds that represented the shape of my inner and outer ear and look a little bit like (somewhat unappetising) tortellini.
After posting my moulds off to the Craft Ears HQ in Kobylanka, Poland, I then needed to brief them on the visual side of things. A quick look through their Instagram page will tell you that they’re capable of some stunning and varied colour and personalisation options. Craft Ears use innovative 3D-printing technology to create their customised shells, and allow the customer to choose their own shell colour, faceplate colour, and can even swap-out the maker’s mark logo for one of their own choosing.
One thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to have left and right shells that are immediately distinguishable from one another, and so I shared two ‘diametrically-opposed’ vector logo files with the Craft Ears team, along with my vision for a suitably ‘galactic’-looking background colour.
So, after a few weeks of waiting (plus some excellent communications and speedy updates from the Craft Ears team), how did they turn out?
Head over to Page Two to continue our review, just CLICK HERE.