Comparing two flagship hybrids from two of the top companies is just too irresistible. The 64Audio tia Fourté ($3,599, Review HERE) is just as unusual an innovation as Legend X. Fourté uses three types of driver technologies. BA, DD, and tia. LX uses, BA, W9 subwoofers, and SynX crossovers… and let’s not forget A.R.C damping. They both deserve their status as cutting edge TOTL products.
The first thing you notice when switching from LX to Fourté is a massive increase in clarity and air. The roof opens up, and you are suddenly in a sky-lit sports arena. Soundstage is a little wider, but much taller. Depth is about the same, being one of LX’s great strengths.
It is obvious you are hearing more treble. Not just in dBs, for there is a slight increase there, but in extension. It goes on forever, creating so much light and air it feels like the parting of rainclouds. However, the highs are thinner and less sweet. More ethereal and less harmonic. Fourté manages all this treble in a smooth, non-fatiguing manner. On the plus side, everything comes off more transparent and clear. On the negative, you lose warmth and musicality.
Fourté’s vocals are larger and closer to you, seeming freer and unbridled. Hell, all the instruments are larger, on a stage that is grander. They sound more vivid and detail-oriented. I’m not of the opinion Fourté is especially thin, when taken on its own. Some IEMs sound thin no matter how long you listen to them. Fourté is balanced in such a way that it actually sounds rather natural… until you compare it to something like Legend X. LX is fulsome of body, with greater note weight. Its warmth and power makes Fourté seem a little lackluster. But only when making direct comparisons. A few minutes of listening, and Fourté shines again. It’s all relative, as both are tuned expertly for their desired purpose.
You might think, given the dynamic drivers both Fourté and LX use, that bass might be the great equalizer of these two IEMs. Not so. Their lows are so very different. Starting with quantity: LX has more across the whole spectrum. Its sub-bass strikes with even greater visceral impact. Mid-bass, also, has heavier presence. In comparison, Fourté sounds cleaner and tighter. Far more controlled. LX is like a demonic sex gimp: absolutely frothing with NEED and pent-up energy. Fourté’s low-end tends to stay in its place, adding very little color to the rest of the presentation. While LX adds weight and warmth and overtones to everything, mids and treble alike. Although Fourté exhibits that naturalistic DD tone and physicality, LX outdoes it in all ways, showcasing superior texturing and detail. Not to mention that guttural rumble. For my tastes, there is no question; Legend X is Lord of the Bass Region.
tia Fourté shows its prowess in other areas, of course. I’ve yet to hear another IEM match it in resolution, micro-detailing, separation, or holographic dimensionality. Legend X competes admirably, especially in dimensionality and resolution, but there is no denying the winner here.
Choosing a favorite is less about quality and more about signature preference. Both tia Fourté and Legend X do their thing like no other. That said, I have found myself utterly enamored with LX, to the extent I must admit it’s become my new favorite. I lose a little of that technical expertise, but not enough to make me feel guilty for siding with the sheer, mad musicality of Empire’s beast.
Unfortunately, I’m short on TOTL IEMs to which to compare LX. I wanted to write about the FIBAE ME by Custom Art, but that is currently back in Poland for a refit. I could do Noble Audio Kaiser Encore, but tia Fourté is basically Encore Ultra, so I’d be repeating myself there.
So why not make an Empire Ears comparison, with the Spartan IV CIEM ($749, Review HERE)?
Spartan is neutral with a capital N! Everything is in harmony, resulting in a linear, smooth signature, which excels at clarity and air.
Treble is well extended, and a touch brighter than Legend X. Yet bright is not the defining character here. I’ve always celebrated Spartan’s liquid, natural highs. They reveal well, but are not sharp or harsh. They are a little thinner than LX, and less syrupy.
Vocals don’t have anywhere near the same weight and density of LX. They have less body and warmth and sit more neutral on the stage. Note size is about the same, though. They come off a little less energetic and more relaxed. While they are quite articulate, they have a ways to go before Spartan catches Legend X’s mid-range.
Bass is properly neutral. Meaning it is not lacking, but it’s also not trying to draw your attention. For BAs, it has great extension, achieving good lower-bass, and a natural upper-bass hump for realistic tonality. Needless to say, LX’s Weapon IX woofers destroy Spartan. There is simply no comparison. Spartan is like a kitten trying to play with a lion. Extension, texture, timbre, presence… LX is infinitely superior.
Spartan also falls short in soundstage. Only in height does it seem to match LX. Imaging is more or less perfect. But separation, resolution, layering, etc… LX dominates in a big way.
I feel I need one more comparison. And I have one which actually provides a lot of the very same things I love in Legend X. The IMR Acoustics R1 (around $700, Review HERE) is a powerhouse in bass, with remarkable clarity, soundstage, and resolution.
Treble is tunable, but always thinner and brighter than LX. It has amazing extension, which lets in more air and light. But it doesn’t have LX’s rich treble timbre. Lots of detail comes through, nearly as much as LX. Where the R1 loses the most ground is with the coldness which permeates these highs. LX is warmer and sweeter.
Vocals possess brilliant transparency. They manage great separation from the other instruments, helping the perception of layering. LX’s vocals feel much more part of the music, making for a greater sense of cohesion. R1 renders detail and texture with skill, but the mids lack body and a sense of energy. LX has gobs of body and energy.
Bass is R1’s greatest strength. It’s nearly Legend’s equal. In fact, before I heard LX, the R1 jumped to the top of my list of most impressive IEM bass. It’s so full and dynamic. Detail and resolution are out of this world. Extension is fathomless. And you can tune it with filters to just about any quantity, including one that is quite a bit heavier than LX delivers. To be honest, I can’t even say with 100% certainty that LX has better quality lows. I think I like better, but on merely a technical level, R1 is so amazing, it may be Empire’s equal.
R1 does beat LX in soundstage. Dynamic drivers have to really f**k up to fall behind Balanced Armature in this arena. It’s probably the tubes that do it. DDs are so much more open and natural-sounding. R1 is wider, and insanely taller. Depth, however, is more or less the same between these two. Resolution goes to LX, but not by much. R1 is outstanding. Separation… probably R1’s win. Despite the profound difference in price, IMR Acoustics has created a frightfully vicious competitor.