The 64Audio tia Fourté is heaven on earth. To say these are airy doesn’t cover it by half. The emphasis on upper treble, combined with the sheer audacity of its extension, blows the roof wide open, letting in unimaginable air and height. Reference seems the aim here, with a rather flat line of superb tuning. This is not usually to my tastes, as I’m more of a warmth fiend. Fourté, however, won me the f**k over. In spite of an abundance of clarity and treble, Fourté renders a remarkably smooth signature. It doesn’t hit you with harsh spikes; it progresses upward with a linear stroll that seems to go on for hours with nothing but a gentle hump at the higher frequencies for that little extra magic.
That’s right, tia Fourté is magical. Not to mention, energetic. They give the impression of a perpetual explosion of sorcerous power somehow contained by older and wiser spellwork. Every note releases like a solar flare from the sun’s fusion furnaces and vanishes just as quick. If that containment field were to weaken, we’d all die instantly. Details are presented with excitement and a level of resolution that will slake anyone’s hunger for technical brilliance. Yet there is a restraint at play which keeps things from getting too aggressive or violent. It’s an artful balance.
64Audio’s tia High technology is one of those things you know you’re hearing from the first few notes of whatever song you play. It doesn’t sound like anything else. The closest contemporary it has is Campfire Audio’s TAEC system, and even that fails to match the grandeur of Fourté’s treble. TAEC sounds big, but also queerly sweet and thick. It can come off rather unnatural. tia, however, is airy, thin, and ethereal, and shimmers in a most free and effortless manner. Of course, to be considered truly natural, I believe treble ought to possess a good measure of warmth. Fourté’s upper range does not contain any real warmth. I wouldn’t call it cold, however. There’s far too much life in there for such a cadaverous description. No, it’s just bright. The overall signature is not bright, but the treble certainly is. No way around it. While this is not, strictly speaking, a natural tone, it is where most of Fourté’s magic comes from. The tia High driver brings every instrument into vivid relief, and produces more of those overtones than we usually get to hear in IEMs… or even headphones, for that matter.
tia’s improbable extension also fills the stage with class-leading air and atmosphere. This adds an organic touch to the proceedings which invokes a naturalness the tuning alone fails to capture. It’s a give and take which culminates in a thoroughly engaging, hyper-real experience. “Hyper-real” meaning “more than real.” tia Fourté is a fantasy. It aims for reference, yet overshoots, landing in Narnia. Its ability to reveal and expose goes beyond great. We’re approaching HD800 territory here, with nearly the same penchant for resolving an image. Beware, though! If you’re shy of treble, these may put you off.
Clarity and transparency of the highest order are the defining traits of Fourté’s mid-range. It is a cliché to talk about how a new headphone makes it sound like the artist is in the same room with you… but sweet Jesus these do sound like that. These are the best IEM’s I’ve come across at removing the veils between you and the music. It just sounds so… naked. Fourté comes dangerously close to HD800’s level of transparency. It’s so good at this some may come away from an audition feeling the mids were thin. I think that’s the wrong term. While vocals may not seem thick or particularly warm, they are not really thin. Freakishly clear, yes, but not thin.
Perhaps part of the reason they avoid weakness is the sheer power and dynamism on display. They transcend the normal pitfalls of super clear tuning. Fourté’s vocals possess weight and authority without the orthodoxy of thickness and warmth. Could this be a characteristic of the tia-Mid Driver? Don’t know. What I can say is I don’t crave the lusher tuning of my old favorites.
tia Fourté’s mids are crazy neutral. I would not say there is any inherent warmth in them, nor any coldness. Both male and female voices sound vivacious and alive. Melissa Menago sings her songs with a warm, sweet, and airy tonality. Warmth exists because she brings it. Patricia Barber, however, sounds thinner, airier, with a very natural brightness. When David Draiman sings The Sound of Silence, you get all the depth and richness of his lower key opening, and when the song shifts upward, he sounds smooth and angelic. Fourté recreates it all truthfully. No range suffers or sounds anything less than… real.
The hyper-realism is helped along to greater heights by Fourté’s stellar resolution. Again I’m reminded of the HD800 here. You can hear the subtlest of breaths, and the wetness of a singer’s tongue. The precise location of each guitar string… hell, even the individual vibrations of the string off the frets. Okay, I might exaggerate some, but not by much. tia Fourté is the best I’ve found at rendering these things.
My review so far probably reads like rotten hype. So let’s talk about Fourté’s weakest feature: Bass. And really, the “weakness” I speak of is just about personal preference. You see, I like a demon in my sonic basement. I want to feel a little overwhelmed by that darkenss. Fourté fails to accomplish this. Which is a damn shame, as it’s packing the perfect weapon for the job; a Dynamic Driver can kill a man with awesome. And in fact, I can Equalize Fourté to do just that. Which goes to show how under-utilized it currently is.
Fourté’s low-end is not really tuned light. From a certain perspective, it’s quite appropriate. Very neutral. I’m sure a great many purists want it just the way it is. Sub-bass is raised over mid-bass, making for a clean, tight presentation. That sub-bass delves to some exquisite lows, too, rumbling where you feel it more than hear it. Kicks land with decisive impact, visceral and honest. The amount of detail and texture Fourté conveys is right up there with the best of them.
Bass notes sound organic, but a little dry. By its nature, bass is a warm tone, yet Fourté fights to keep that under control. Undoubtedly this aids Fourté’s technical brilliance, but it also robs you of a little musicality. A major benefit of this profile, and the splendid treble extension, is how much air imbues even the lows. They are more a part of the stage than is often the case, existing beside the other instruments, instead of merely permeating the atmosphere. Again, we see that give and take. The result manages to give me a cohesive, satisfying experience, in spite of how my bias leans towards that bassier sound.
Speaking of cohesive… that’s a great way to describe the soundstage. It’s massive, but in every direction. tia Fourté creates a cube to live in, but a very big cube whose boundaries lie beyond the head. The elements on this stage are fairly large as well. Voices are front and center and in your face. Instruments are placed all around the singer in a spacious manner, though not exaggeratedly stretched-out. The musicians are arrayed naturally, not forced to opposite ends of a super wide stage. It feels so… cohesive. Imaging is utterly without fault, both horizontally and in terms of depth. Fourté is the king of holographic earphones, illustrating the space between layers better than anyone else. It’s so bloody good, this might just be its most impressive skill.