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Review: Soranik ION-4X CIEM

Disclaimer: I formally thank Soranik for graciously providing us with the ION-4X CIEM at a discounted price in exchange for our honest review.

Pros:

  • Exemplary finishing with an excellent breadth of customisation options
  • Premium packaging commensurate with the selling price
  • Healthy perception of “air” in low-end enunciates realism and timbral accuracy
  • Highly resolving midrange with shimmery upper-mid flourish
  • Refined imaging/separation and strong lateral width in L-R soundstage

Cons:

  • Upper-treble can appear splashy and slightly unrefined on some tracks

Introduction

Every week, emerging Audiophile brands seemingly appear out of thin air, with a slew of new product releases week after week. That is the story about the audiophile industry that’s writing itself as we speak. Brands come and go, but Soranik can’t be classified as one of them.

Soranik may not be a mainstream competitor in an increasingly claustrophobic colosseum but it has seen some things and released a couple of things! Founded in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Soranik is a highly-ambitious brand specialising in tuning, designing and manufacturing custom-in ear monitors (CIEM) whose products the Headphone List has reviewed previously.

The captain manning the Soranik ship is Thieu Thac Tran, a seasoned veteran in all things portable audio. Unafraid to embrace unexplored technologies such as Electromagnetostatic drivers to fine-tune (pun intended) each subsequent product. A quick skim through Soranik-themed threads on Super Audio Best Friends speaks to his unrivalled engineering expertise, microscopic eye for detail, and congeniality with his avid fanbase.

In pursuit of perfection, Soranik has officially released its latest iteration of a mid-level CIEM: the ION-4X. A derivate of the ION-4, the ION-4X is a variation on a successful theme. Featuring an array of 3-balanced armatures and a single Dynamic driver in a hybrid topology, the ION-4X boasts noteworthy specifications at its respective price point. Today, we’re examining whether its technical performance matches the titular brand’s lofty promises.

Priced at USD 600 (excluding ear impressions and shipping costs), the Soranik ION-4X is available to purchase from Soranik’s official Facebook page or email.

Technology

A cursory glance at the ION-4X reveals a traditional hybrid topology between 3 balanced armatures and a single dynamic driver subwoofer. What is intriguing is how the drivers operate harmoniously together. Instead of embedding an active crossover, Soranik has opted to integrate a passive one: a difficult task that beneficially sidesteps transient smearing and timing issues that could emerge from the former. However, the “passive crossover” component of the ION-4X is not exclusive to this product but all its previous releases; an unquivering philosophy that Soranik is staunchly wedded to.

While not necessarily a “technological feature”, it would be remiss of me to neglect the wealth of customisation options that Soranik’s skilled craftsmen offer. Naturally, a CIEM lives and dies on how it sounds and how it looks. Opting for a simple package yields a standard selection of base colourways for a discrete finish. Conversely, the comparatively pricier custom package opens the doors to a myriad of intricate and eye-catching patterns, from scratched carbon fibre to koi fish swimming in a sea of anemones (and I am not being facetious about the latter).

Every CIEM is hand-assembled, and each channel’s internal driver channel is matched for consistent performance between them. From hand-polishing to the careful application of medical-grade lacquer, the finished product merges the realm of fine workmanship and audiology.

Regardless of your choices, every CIEM is manufactured to a high degree of precision and meticulous attention to detail.

Unboxing

The ION-4X comes shipped in a three-panel black cardboard box with an outer-black sleeve boasting a sizeable print of the brand’s official logo in silver lettering.

Underneath the top lid, you’ll be greeted by a printout of the ACTUAL frequency-response measurements (inclusive of channel matching) of that exact ION-4X, inclusive of the product’s 1-year warranty upon receiving the product. I appreciate the provision of unit-specific measurements: a strong testament to their strict attention to sonic consistency, free from unplanned deviations.

Inside the box, you’ll also find an aluminium warranty card with your customer details, a Soranik-branded microfibre cleaning cloth, a mesh-protection sleeve for the CIEMs, and a hockey-puck style stainless-steel case for stowing away your ION-4Xs. As the cherry on top, Soranik laser-etches the customer’s name (in this case, mine) into the case’s top lid.

The ION-4X can be found safely coiled up inside the canister-style case.

Design, Comfort, and Durability

The ION-4X’s outer shells were designed to satisfy my aesthetic requests. For this particular unit, I specifically asked for a carbon-fibre pattern with silver-leafing interspersed throughout the faceplate and chassis, followed by my family name on the left faceplate and the “Soranik” logo on the right.

The finished product is flawless. Carbon-fibre-inspired patterns have one fatal flaw: the prescient risk of appearing tacky. Soranik averts that disaster completely, with impeccable finishing reminiscent of Mokume-gane swirls. The typefaces layered on top of the base carbon-fibre chassis has a “floating-like” effect without obscuring the granular details below it. The seam between each faceplate and the shell has been expertly sealed with lacquer, with zero protrusions.

As to be expected with CIEMs, the ION-4x fits and wears like a glove. A CIEM can’t lose to a universal IEM in terms of comfort and long-term wearability (save for a poorly-done ear impression). The ION-4X’s internal driver array is protected from earwax by a wire-mesh guard strategically located at the tip of each nozzle. The ION-4X’s overall weight (sans the cable) is by IEMs fabricated from medical-grade hypoallergenic lacquer: lightweight and warm to the touch.

The downside to acrylic, however, is its proneness to cracking. While it is a far cry from being shatter-prone like the glass is, it is comparatively susceptible to breakage vis-a-vis a full-metal jacket. This is not a deal-breaker but rather something to consider if you lead a rough-and-tumble lifestyle.

Isolation quality surpasses its universal counterparts, with a vacuum-like seal despite the mesh-sealed vents on the backside of each channel. Expect ambient noise to be eliminated from your day-to-day listening sessions.

Cable Quality

The included cables with the ION-4X come in a standard 2-pin configuration with a right-angled 3.5mm unbalanced termination. The Y-split and right-angled termination are adorned by high-polished steel elements for a premium look and feel, alongside machine-twisted/braided cables sleeved in black.

The cables themselves exhibit resistance to bending and creasing, with excellent malleability and flexibility that’s well suited for an on-the-move lifestyle. Storability is commendable, where the three-finger coiling technique is more than adequate for stowing it away in the provided stainless-steel carry case. Microphonics are barely existent in outdoor settings, with cable noise generated from rubbing against the fabric of my clothes kept at a minimum.

In summary, the included cables are highly ergonomic and especially user-friendly in active settings.

Onto the next page for details on sound…

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Kevin Goh

Kevin Goh

Raised in Southeast Asia’s largest portable-audio market, Kevin’s interest in high-end audio has grown alongside it as the industry flourishes. His pursuit of “perfect sound” began in the heydays of Jaben in Singapore at the age of just 10 years old. Kevin believes that we live in a golden age of readily accessible, quality audio.

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