Picking equipment that gives you the chance to comfortably listen back to your own music is a difficult task to perform. The competition on the global market is enormous, with more and more producers appearing in the form of universal in-ear headphones from known brands (such as Shure, Sennheiser) as well as those bearing the logos of famous music companies (Zildjian, Fender), and at prices ranging from a hundred Euros up to a thousand or even more. The risk of making the wrong choice does, of course, exist in this case, but there is always the possibility to check such equipment out before making the purchase, so it actually is not such a big problem. The other option is drivers built into the user’s auricle impression. This is an individual thing, not for use by anyone else, which makes the matter much more serious as the producer is very much like a bomb disposal expert, who just cannot make a mistake, i. e. he cannot afford to make an unsatisfying piece of equipment, not only for marketing and PR reasons, but also financially, while the buyer expects excellent sound, reliability and comfort of use. After all, the amount invested is no longer the proverbial “peanuts”. Also, market competition in this field is as fierce as in the case of headphones and a musician looking to make this kind of purchase often does not know which producer to choose, usually having to rely on friends’ recommendations. For this reason, we think the time has come for us to test this kind of equipment, thanks to which we may at least partially help our viewers make a choice since the in-ear monitor market has become richer in yet another promising player – a company called Craft Ears. That is exactly the manufacturer we have decided to take under our microscope.
We’re testing Craft Ears custom in-ear monitors
1. Basic product specs:
- Producer: Craft Ears
- Model: Craft FOUR
- Material: Certified, biocompatible acrylic
- Finish: Custom
- Frequency response: 15 Hz – 22 kHz
- Impedance: 10 Ω @ 1 kHz
- Noise isolation: -26 dB
- Electrical crossover: 4-way, 4 BA drivers
- Acoustical design: 3 bores
- Plug: Gold-plated 1/8 mini jack
- Set includes: Bore cleaning tool, drying capsule, hardcase
Options of personalizing Craft Ears monitors:
- Cable color (silver or black)
- Personalized hardcase type
- Shell color (unlimited options)
- Faceplate color and material
- Custom graphic / logo
Our Craft Ears Craft FOUR IEMs were tested by two of our team-members, in studio conditions (during recording and mixing), on stage and in a practice room (during rehearsals and live shows of a five-piece rock band and a 50-piece orchestra) as well as at home (listening for pleasure).
3. Product and sound
The impressions made of acrylic are available in practically limitless color variations. One of us simply went for black, but the other tester was slightly more adventurous having chosen a “cosmic-galactic” blend of black and numerous shades of blue, which the manufacturer describes as Galaxy Blue. The visual effect is really interesting. The headphones come with hard cases, which (as is generally the case with in-ear monitors) are adorned with a plate bearing the owner’s name, the creator’s logo and autograph, as well as a serial number. Our headphones were sent to us in very compact boxes, but much larger ones are also available. A matter of personal preference as one person will value small size in transport, another will be happy to pack a few extra things into the larger one (such as an adapter for a large jack).
The impressions themselves are comfortable, there is no pressure at the exit of the auditory canal and one can use them for several hours in a row without having to adjust their position from time to time (after all, this is what this type of device is all about).
The acoustic sensation associated with noise isolation is very positive, however, it turned out that the individual structure of the auricle and the inlet of the auditory canal allowed Viking to leave the impressions slightly (and we mean: veeeeery slightly) loose in his auricles, play the drums in a rehearsal room to a click track without microphones and he was able to hear everything that was being played. In Mateusz’s case, the impressions immediately fell into the auditory canal isolating him from the surroundings. Naturally, all the capabilities of Craft Ears custom in-ear monitors are revealed when connected to the mixer and hearing the mix of the entire band or orchestra, whether live or in the studio.
At this point, we must give you an important piece of information: the test connected with playing as a member of a 50-piece orchestra was conducted by drummer Mateusz Paprota, but his impressions will undoubtedly be also useful for bass players. It took place during a concert tour with CoOperate Orchestra, where the tester was performing as a member of a band consisting of a 50-piece symphonic orchestra, rock guitars, bass and keyboards. The repertoire was music from games such as “Doom“, “God of War” or “The Witcher“. It must be said that the first contact with impressions is always something completely new for a musician, so during the first soundcheck at the Spodek hall in Katowice, Poland (11-thousand seater), our tester needed some time to set up comfortable playing conditions for himself. Seated on a big stage, behind a perspex drum screen, where the instrumentalists are 10 meters away, a musician must have a well-adjusted mix of the entire band. This is where we get to the heart of the matter. Craft Ears monitors offer users full comfort of playing when isolated from the environment. According to the tester’s report, the high frequencies (guitars, keyboards, cymbals) are nice to the ear, the bassist’s articulation (or lack thereof 😉 ) and sub bass coming from keyboards are perfectly audible, there is no problem with identifying individual instruments that make up the symphony orchestra, and when it comes to the drum set and timpani, all its elements were audible with appropriate dynamics, separation and selectivity. Also, there was no problem with excessive sonic information, which is sometimes the case with multi-driver monitors.
The other tester was our editor-in-chief, Viking, who is also a drummer, but he can hold the bass in his hands and knows which way it should be pointing ;). He was the one who tested his pair of Craft Ears Craft FOUR IEMs in studio conditions when mixing the latest album by his band Heavywieght, which is yet to be released. Separation and selectivity, which struck Mateusz while playing on large stages, only became more apparent when working in the studio. Each instrument (or lack thereof) was clearly heard in the mix. The same goes for their proportions. In addition, the monitors also allowed to easily capture the characteristics of each track, i. e. they exposed the flaws in the high range (e.g. wheezing and rustling in the vocals, unwanted sound of the pick sliding on the string wrap wires) and the excessive low end (e.g. in the bass drum). When listening back to different versions of the mix, the dynamics also deserve high marks – it was immediately clear whether the bass was dynamic enough or not, or if it required corrections in some parts of the bandwidth. Of course, the same applies to vocals and other instruments. All the remarks that Viking had at the mixing stage based on his in-ear monitors were confirmed on other equipment (mostly studio speaker monitors, but also home stereo systems, car stereo, smart phones), and some of them would not have been spotted without their help. This is a great testimony to the versatility of Jędrzej Nowicki’s product.
It is also worth mentioning that, by playing with CIEMs (both in the studio, on stage and at a rehearsal), a bass player finally has the ability to hear all the details in his or her own playing (dynamic differences, articulation when playing with fingers and a pick, the pick sliding on the string wrap wires, hitting the strings against the frets), making it easier is to control playing those elements. In addition, a bassist equipped with custom in-ear monitors does not have to play harder than it is actually needed because he or she can hear perfectly on stage. Without a doubt, a pair of Craft Ears Craft FOUR does give that comfort.
Our editor-in-chief, Viking, did not deny himself the pleasure of testing Craft Ears Craft FOUR monitors in home conditions. To this end, he played back a few albums, which he knows very well from vinyl, cassette tape, CD and files available at well-known streaming platforms. Features such as: great separation (individual instruments can be heard much clearer than in ordinary headphones), band selectivity (high frequencies are very nice to the ear, and even appear “repaired”, the bass is round, the sub bass is clearly audible and does not burst the ears, medium range tones are warm), wide pan (the impression of widened pan is present even in recordings from the 60s and 70s). Overall, it can be said that the albums “Time Honoured Ghosts” by Barclay James Harvest (the 70s), “Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits (the 80s), “Vulgar Display of Power” by Pantera (the early 90s) and “Living in Fear” by The Power Station (the late 90s) revealed themselves from a completely different sonic side when listened to on these monitors. On each of the albums, one could hear elements of the arrangement that could not be heard on ordinary commercial equipment. This is a huge advantage!
Craft Ears Craft FOUR custom in-ear monitors ensure listening comfort both in concert and studio conditions, but also for sheer pleasure at home. This is guaranteed both by the good matching of the impressions and the quality of the sonic “picture”. Our co-tester, Mateusz Paprota, summarized his experience as follows:
“I know Viking was able to play rehearsals, only having the metronome feed or using his pair as earplugs. Good for him. For me, Craft Ears have brought about the end of playing rehearsals, soundchecks and concerts to a click track without additional cables, microphones and mixers. On the other hand, the sound is incomparably better, because I’ve never had such universal sounding headphones. Additionally, having my impressions, I can turn down the volume, so there is also an aspect of hearing protection. I’m not going back to the way it was before.”
The other co-tester, Viking, put it in the following fashion:
“To me, these in-ears are really versatile. I can use them in my rehearsal space just as earplugs, I’ve never had such a good sound onstage, I’ve got all the comfort I need when recording or mixing in the studio, and I get the sheer pleasure of kicking back at home and listening to my favourite albums. What more can you want?”
Our verdict: 5/5TOP
- Very well crafted
- Beautiful look
- Excellent sound (pan, separation, selectivity)
- Perfect auricle impression fit
- Custom finishes