iBasso IT04

Review - iBasso IT04



                                                                                    
Website - iBasso Audio

Overview

After the huge success of their most affordable IT01 IEM with a single graphene driver, the IT04 arrives as the new flagship from iBasso Audio company. This time with a higher 4 driver hybrid setup keeping the single graphene dynamic driver combined with 3 Balanced Armature units from Knowles. A brand new design with a custom like shape, quality cable and most importantly an impeccable sound quality making a good reference for its $500 suggested price.









Specifications
  • Drivers: Single 10mm Dynamic Graphene & 3 Knowles Balanced Armature
  • Frequency range: 5Hz ~ 40kHz
  • Sensitivity: 110 ± 2 dB
  • Impedance: 16Ω
  • Cable: 8 wire silver & silver plated copper; MMCX connectors and 1.2m length
  • Plug: 2.5mm Balanced TRRS + extra 3.5m TRS adapter
  • Weight: 13g.


Price: U$500.
    
Available in two color themes, blue/black & silver/black.




The IT04 arrives in the same impressive and elegant packaging and unboxing as the previous IT01 most affordable IEM. The box itself is larger and expectedly carries more weight, but also the included accessory pack is even wider. The outer paper box holds minimal writings and a picture of the IT04 on the front side and the usual specifications on the back. The inner cardboard box has the same magnetic closure with everything securely arranged inside. This time the two earpieces arrive inside the metal round box within a velvet holder, and the small box carries a wide array of ear tips and the cables.




The ear tips' selection consists of 5 sets of silicone tips all of them in the 3 usual sizes, varying in their shape, color and nozzle width, and there're also 2 pairs of foam tips in 2 sizes.

The main cable is the CB12s, 2.5mm balanced terminated, which is also sold separately, and the extra short cable is an adapter for standard 3.5mm plugs.





Design

The IT04 follows the same solid build quality formula from the main earpieces to the cable section and a similar MMCX connection as the IT01 showed, but takes a more 'flagship' kind of look and form factor. The shells are still made of a thick plastic material with a solid and glossy black color theme and fancier outer faceplates with the "inTune" writing in the middle surrounded by a carbon fiber texture in blue and silver theme.



As advertised on the website, the inner section has a custom-like shape, which in theory is made to provide a more comfortable and tighter fit as it should adapt to the natural outer ear shape. However, in practice this unique shape may be a hit or miss for most people, being too large for smaller ears or narrow ear canals giving a shallow or more standard fit instead of a 'custom' fit, and even for those that can get the shells to sit properly, the shape might result too tight for longer listening. I was able to get the suggested custom like fit, but only using extra tips. The nozzle is straight without a lip allowing the included tips to sit very close to nozzle base for a deeper fit and best seal. Nonetheless, despite the two small vents on the inner part, isolation level is quite high among the universal IEMs, which is not too surprising having this particular form factor that may block the whole outer ear part.






Lastly, the CB12s cable is of good quality too, consisting of an 8-wire 'hybrid' type of silver and copper wires (4 strands each). The cable is completely braided and despite the multiple 8 wire setup it is quite compact and very soft, and with no added earguides it is very ergonomic and easy to wear around the ears, with practically no cable noise when moving around. The MMCX connectors are the same new ones used on the IT01 IEM that have an extended plug and 4 split in order to provide a very tight connection and avoid unnecessarily rotation around the sockets for more durability.







Sound Quality

After the great success and high popularity the IT01 received with just its single dynamic driver, iBasso went much higher to a 4 driver hybrid setup. The dynamic graphene unit inside the IT01 performed really well, so using the same material is a wise decision when choosing a matching driver for a multiple hybrid way. The IT04 is undoubtedly a much higher contender than the IT01, but yet the overall tuning and technical strengths of their budget option are easily perceived within this current IEM flagship. Even though, the IT04 is not just a huge 'upgrade' over the IT01 model, rather a well done product that stands its ground in its own price bracket with a unique kind of tuning. The three Knowles Balanced Armature drivers (dual TWFK and single ED) are quite popular among different companies and found on various 3BA+1D sets (i.e., Dunu DK-3001). Combined with the iBasso own Graphene driver, the overall sound on the IT04 is very, very full, with great dynamics and depth, and most importantly very engaging and yet detailed in the BA fashion. Neutrality is not what iBasso aim for, but fullness, musicality and natural timbre are good ways to describe the IT04 performance.



On the low frequencies side, they are very full, voluminous and energetic. Very rich both in quantity and detail, reaching really good extension up to the sub-bass region, effortless and yet with strong rumble. Overall, the bass is presented in a similar way as the IT01 where the extra boost starts from the sub-bass part all way up to the mid and upper bass. It is not a massive bass but never fall to be neutral; it is most balanced on the whole with high accuracy and good speed. The texture and dynamics are worth praising on the IT04, having excellent control without giving up on the fun factor.

The midrange has great balance, mixing quality and quantity of the dynamic and armature drivers with high coherence. It is thick and forward but not overdone, and with the good amount of low end the whole midrange is safe from sounding dry or emotionless. The texture is quite perfect with a sweet and full presentation that works very nice with vocals. Male voices are slightly forward and carrying good weight without sounding chesty, while female singers sound very sweet without being sibilant. The timbre is quite natural and most importantly it sounds very engaging. The instruments and voices balance is well done, and in worst scenario the voices may sound a half or quarter step more forward, though source pairing may have some effect in this regard.

The treble plays nicely on the whole presentation if just a little bit more laid-back next to the bass or midrange. It is smooth up to the higher treble but definitely doesn't sound too dark or dull. In fact, there is enough energy and sparkle and nice texture for upper instruments, just not the extra brightness or aggressiveness to match treble heads or even to classify as a more standard v-shaped sound. It is presented in an elegant and refined way, with high sense of air and resolution.
Micro detail is easy to notice inside the more musical tuning the IT04 tries to give. The presentation is wide and spacious but not unnatural with very nice imaging and accurate positioning of each element. Technically, the IT04 works well for any music genre, though personally I'd pick it for more acoustic than electronic type.






As for comparisons, the most natural rival for the IT04 should be the Dunu DK-3001, an IEM that was released more than a year ago which also uses the same hybrid driver configuration and similar three balanced armature drivers (1 dual TWFK+ 1 single ED). They do differ in the dynamic part and probably in the inner acoustic filter and setup, but more important they take a completely different outer design that has also the expected acoustic impacts. However, the sound presentation is quite close, both bringing a very well balanced and full sound, with a fine sense of warmth and musicality too, open sound and large stage effect within the IEM realm. Differences are still not difficult to perceive between both models even without a A/B critical test. The DK-3001 may sound a bit wider and open, with a very slight livelier signature, putting a more neutral midrange with more energy and sparkle on the treble region. Female vocals are more forward than on the IT04, whereas the IT04 has thicker lower midrange and weight on male singers. If the DK-3001 gives a more spacious right to left effect, the IT04 has a more rounded 3D scene.

Value

The $500 retail price may seem like a huge jump from the last IT01, but considering the various options at this range the IT04 holds its ground better than many. A nice box presentation followed by an ample selection of accessories, and then continued by a very solid build quality and elegant design. The unique custom like shape could be a bit risky for some, but with some luck it works like a charm. Of course, the best part of the IT04 lies on the great sound quality that could be one of the best among the mid-tier universal IEM options.

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