iBasso IT04 – Balance In Everything
iBasso IT04 is iBasso’s Top Of The Line IEM from their current Earphones offering, and we’re going to take a look at how it performs, as well as how it compares to other IEMs, both similarly priced, and considerably more expensive.
iBasso is one of the most lovely company to work with out there, their PR Paul being a really trusty and helpful gentleman, as iBasso is known for sorting out issues for any customer who purchased products from them, as well as helping their customer pick the best product for them, and even going one step further and offering very accessible and helpful solutions to issues, when and if those arise.
It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with iBasso, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by iBasso or anyone else. I’d like to thank iBasso for providing the sample for this review. The sample was provided along with iBasso’s request for an honest and unbiased review. This review will be as objective as it is humanly possible, and it reflects my personal experience with iBasso IT04. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in iBasso IT04 find their next music companion.
You can get IT04 and other iBasso products from www.amazon.com here: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=as_li_ss_tl?k=ibasso+it04
First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:
iBasso has always been great with their package, and has always provided great packages for their products, and IT04 makes no exception. Upon opening the nicely designed package, you are welcomed by one of the most awesome parts of IT04, which is the metal carrying case. This one is better than the case found on iBasso IT01 or HIFIMAN RE2000, being much thicker, heavier and more resilient. Although it may feel a little too much at times, for a IEM priced at 500 USD, this seems like a good fit.
Other things included in the package are a huge number of spare tips, one of the largest variety included with a IEM in this price range, or any price range really.
There’s also the cable included with IT04, which is a very high quality cable that’s worth at least 100 USD or more. In fact, the cable of IT04 has a trick up its sleeve, it doubles as both a Single Ended Cable and a Balanced Cable.
The paperwork for IT04 is designed nicely and includes an important amount of data about IT04, as well as a color printed handbook, showcasing how much care iBasso has placed into IT04.
All in all, we are very happy with the package of IT04, and it really has everyone one could need with their IEMs, and iBasso has thought of everyone in every possible way, making IT04 a IEM that once you purchase, you don’t really need to look for more accessories, besides a good source, of course.
What to look in when purchasing an entry-level In-Ear Monitor
This is a place where IT04 also excels, as it is made of the same acrylic that most custom IEMs (CIEMS) are made of. Not only that, but the IEMs have a beautiful carbon fiber finish on the outside, dubbed by an “In Tune” logo that reminds us of the Fender Logo from our guitar cabinets. Really, the aspect of IT04 would work with anything, both the Jazz enthusiasts, metalheads, old rock lovers, and even those listening to some Daft Punk or other electronic music lovers.
The cable is an excellent quality braided cable made from OFC (Oxygen-Free Copper), which is ended in a 2.5mm balanced connector. To add to the fun, iBasso includes an adapter in the package, which helps you use IT04 with a Single Ended connection as well, making IT04 a truly versatile IEM in this sense. This also makes it easy to test Balanced and Single Ended outputs of the same DAP, without having to change the entire cable.
Some of the very early units of IT04 had a little bit of paint bubble, but iBasso promptly replaced those for their fans and lovers, and there have been no build quality issues with IT04 otherwise, making this a really long-lasting IEM.
The driver flex protection isn’t perfect, and sometimes you can get driver flex, depending on how you insert IT04, and how you touch the vent holes, but generally they should be free of driver flex.
The cable connectors are solid and reliable, and click into place, they don’t spin too freely, but they aren’t overtightened either.
The fit is generally good, a medium-depth insertion fit, making IT04 sit rather comfortably for most ears, with the seal being rather good and not getting broken easily, although we should mention that IT04 is a large IEM with a large body, and that the body even has a little part in the back, making its fit a more personal thing, as in our test group it was great for everyone, but we suspect some users, especially those with smaller ears, may want to test it before purchasing where possible.
The comfort is generally good otherwise, there is no cable microphonic noise, the IEM isolates well from the outside noise, and they generally do a good job at letting the user enjoy their music without much hassle.
All in all, aesthetics and the comfort reach out golden standards, but while the fit worked well for us, IT04 is a large IEM, and we can’t guarantee that the fit will work quite as well for those with smaller ears.
The sound of IT04 is quite different from what we experienced with IT01, making iBasso a company that doesn’t adopt a house sound, and which rather has a tuning to everyone one of their IEMs.
IT04 is a tight IEM, with a neutral, quick, punchy and revealing bass, with a neutral, musical and detailed midrange, and with a bright, energetic, well expressed and smoothly textured treble. This all adds to what could be described as neutral, bright, vivid, dynamic, punchy, detailed, quick and impressive sound. For sure, IT04 isn’t fatiguing or too much, but it isn’t a basshead IEM either, but let’s get into each part.
The bass of IT04 is quite impressive, very quick, very revealing, and has a really nice amount of detail. The bass is fairly neutral at most times, so if you’re a basshead, it won’t satisfy you, as its bass is more centered around quality, speed and punchy delivery rather than on quantity. And it does have a really awesome delivery, being one of those kinds of bass that a music lover will enjoy, precise, and tight, with just the right amount of oomph when needed, but not overly smooth or warm. The best part about it is that the bass manages to be quite loud when it is called for, and it can surely reach to the lowest octaves as well.
The midrange is nice and detailed, voices and guitars are presented naturally and with an amazingly well put tone, although the fact that the bass isn’t quite that warm also means that the midrange is fairly neutral rather than warm or otherwise tilted towards any tonality. The detail level is quite impressive, about the same as most 700 USD IEMs, which is fairly good to begin with. The speed of the midrange is slower than that of the bass, which means that compared to some competitors, it may have a touch less transparency in textures, which can be a tad smoother, but this can be a positive thing if one prefers a smoother midrange. In all honesty, it does more than most IEMs in this price area typically do, ar at least used to do in the previous releases, but nowadays more and more IEMs seem to set a new standard. We’ll go in deeper about how IT04 compares to its competition in the comparisons part of the review.
The treble is probably the most interesting part about IT04, because it defies everything one would think about IT04 without trying them. The treble can be described as a really well-extended treble, which goes as high as you can imagine, even higher than past flagships like IE800. Not only the treble goes high, it is also smooth in texture, and has a good quantity to it, so IT04 works incredibly well with metal and rock music, cymbals having a really good amount of energy, exploding as energetically and frantically as one would want their metal and rock to. On an overall level, the treble is on the level with the midrange and the bass, making IT04 a pretty darn neutral IEM.
The soundstage of IT04 is fairly large and well layered, but most importantly, it has a really top notch instrument separation, which means that it is easy to distinguish layers of instruments and especially different instruments from each other.
The width of the soundstage is on the larger side, meaning that sounds can come from quite far afar, especially in the left / right planes. The depth is also quite impressive, which means that you can feel when a sound is coming from closer, and when a sound is playing further away from the listener.
ADSR / PRaT
The ADSR and PRaT (Texturization) is rather interesting. In this sense, IT04 is one of the most counter intuitive IEMs we heard to date, as the bass is actually the fastest element, with the most fine texturization. The midrange is quite a bit slower than the bass, while the treble is a little faster than the midrange, making IT04 one of the rarest IEMs in terms of driver speed ratios. To get an idea, this means that the bass is quite punchy and texture, quick, and really exceptional with death metal and quick music. The midrange is rather smooth in its texture, so details are evident, but micro detailing and textures tend to be a little less enhanced. The treble tends to also be on the smoother side rather than grainy, so you can listen to IT04 for hours in a row without getting tired.
We need to start this part by mentioning that if they fit you, IT04 are one of the best portable IEMs one can wear. We introduced a new test for our IEMs when it comes to their portability, which is a soft running test. We received many questions on how suited each IEM and headphone is for running or jogging, so we’re going to review this part for everything that is supposed to be portable.
iBasso IT04 is quite excellent for running and jogging, because they aren’t quite that open, so their seal isn’t broken by movement, their cable is rather flexible and light, it is not microphonic, and you can safely jog or run with them without experiencing any issues.
The isolation from the outside noise is quite good, thing which means you need pay attention to what’s going on around you, as those will make it hard to notice activity around you, be it idle street chatter, or a construction site.
The cable can be adapted to work with both single ended and balanced sources, iBasso including a sweet little adapter with their IT04, and the cable itself is of a high enough quality to not require upgrading for a long time.
All in all, IT04 is easily driveable from a lower power source like an ultra portable Player like Shanling M0 or HIDIZS AP80, or even a smartphone, but it sounds better driven from a high-quality DAP like iBasso DX200 or DX150.
We have tried to provide comparisons with the most relevant other IEMs we know of, for example IMR R1.
iBasso IT04 vs Dunu DK-3001 – Dunu DK-3001 is a favorite of us, and not only because Dunu is an amazing IEM producer, but also because they have one of the sweetest price/performance ratios out there. In all honesty, it is hard to find anything that provides a better price performance ratio than DK-3001, if they are comfortable and fit well for you, but let’s start with the start. The package they come in is similar for both, in that both come with a large number of accessories, detachable cables, large number of high-quality tips, and both IT04 and DK-3001 have a high-quality carrying case. The fit is quite different though, in that many users have had good luck with IT04 so far, while many users have met some issues with DK-3001 due to a ridge in the inner side that is part of their design. The isolation is better on IT04, but this may also be connected to the better fit we got with them. The sound is quite different between the two, IT04 has more extension in the treble, with more detail and a deeper soundstage with more instrument separation. DK-3001 has a warmer sound in comparison with more bass emphasis, and it also has a larger and slower bass. IT04 tends to have a much quicker bass, and it is better fit for percussion, technical death metal, and other percussion-heavy music styles, but IT04 also has a smoother texture to its midrange, making it fit for Jazz and slower music. DK-3001 tends to have a similar midrange to IT04 in terms of texture and speed, so both should work similarly with slower music. The treble is extended further on IT04, leading to a more explosive, brighter and more airy presentation, especially useful for music with a lot of cymbal content. All in all, IT04 is a little more expensive than DK-3001 as well, making them an interesting option to upgrade to, although we’d like to note our readers that Dunu is working on a new DK-4001, which is supposed to have solved the comfort issues with DK-3001, and which is also supposed to sport an even better sound. We promise to include a comparison between IT04 and DK-4001 once DK-4001 is with us.
iBasso IT04 vs Sennheiser IE800 – Sennheiser IE800 is at the other end of the spectrum, not necessarily a good price-to-performance ratio, but this is a IEM that’s been with us for almost four years now, making it one of the lengthiest IEMs we have, as well as one of the most loved. When comparing the packages, IT04 wins hands down in terms of tips included, as IE800 includes just a few sets of extra tips, and has a proprietary tip mechanism, meaning that you can’t use any third party tips with them. IE800 doesn’t really have detachable cables either, but Sennheiser will replace the IEMs if anything happens to them, being quite helpful even outside of warranty, always finding a helpful solution for their customers, so we can’t blame them for not adding detachable cables, since they supply a customer service that simply makes this work. The sound though, is quite different. First, the bass is much larger, deeper and more impactful on IE800, but it isn’t quite as fast, so if you’re a speed addict for your bass, IT04 may be worth checking out. If you’re a fan of large and deep bass though, IE800 surely has the larger bass, especially in the sub-bass, where it is one of the strongest IEMs out there. When it comes to the upper midrange, both IEMs are relatively equal in terms of amounts, and neither isn’t really tuned to be warm. In the midrange, things are slightly different though, IE800 tends to be more textured, but its midrange is pulled back compared to IT04, resulting in a presentation that pushes back some of the vocal forwardness, making IE800 an ideal IEM for certain musical styles, especially instrumentals, metal, rock, electronic, where it may not be at its best with vocal-centric music, especially music that is focused on absolute midrange, as that is the place where most of its dip is located. Even so, IE800 has the advantage of not being colored in the response, so sweet female vocals sound just a bit quiet, not colored, and they don’t have their response changed. IT04 tends to be similar to IE800 in those aspects, but its midrange is rather linear in comparison, meaning that where some music lovers may feel IE800 to be a tad recessed in the midrange, no one can really say this about IT04, its midrange not being forward, but neither pulled back. Of course, IE800 is a good example of an extreme U-shaped sound, which means that IT04 feeling natural compared to it, may still be a little U or V shaped for someone coming from a midrange-forward IEM like Etymotic ER4XR or such. The treble is quite something as well, IT04 actually managing to have an even better extension than IE800. Its peak tends to be a little higher as well. Here, IT04’s treble texture and overall presentation is slightly more natural than IE800. Some users felt IE800 to be a bit thin in the treble, and this is a place where IT04 feels just right and natural, airy and well-extended. Through the overall sonic presentation, IT04 tends to be a tad wider, IE800 tends to be a bit deeper, with a tad more instrument separation, and a bit more overall texture and detail, but still, some users may prefer IT04’s more balanced overall presentation, especially given the wider soundstage. We feel that those looking for a U-shaped or a V-shaped signature that is really intricate may still want to give IE800 a chance, but those who owned, tried IE800, or those who are looking for a less V-shaped signature may have the time of their life using IT04.
iBasso IT04 vs IMR R1 – IMR R1 is one of the more interesting 500 USD IEMs, as it is one of the very few IEMs that is customizable, both through the sonic filter in the bore tube, as well as through its vent hole, which can be adjusted to your tastes. This doesn’t mean that it is instantly more versatile than IT04, but it is simpler to get a wider array of signatures out of IMR R1. Even so, IMr R1’s signature tends to float above a certain one at all times, making it quite different from IT04, but let’s start with the package and the comfort first. To put it simply, IT04 wins in terms of carrying box, but otherwise, they are pretty evenly matched. One might even argue that the fact that IMR R1 is made of metal is an advantage, but we had good experience with both metallic body and acrylic body IEMs. The comfort is also quite good on both, and both should be comfortable for most users. Now, about the sound, they are rather different. Where IT04 is a neutral – balanced IEM with an excellent treble extension and a speedy bass, IMR R1 tends to be quite the other way around, a warm IEM with a warmer bass (thing which is true with all its filters), IMR R1 has a much slower bass texture with any filter, and with a quicker and more textury midrange, with any of its filters. The treble is amazingly good on both IEMs, but where IT04 focuses on the upper treble and an amazing overall extension, the treble of IMR R1 tends to be quite different, focusing on a little focal point at about 9kHz, after which it tends to drop slowly, offering more of a typical rock signature rather than the utmost treble experience that IT04 offers. All in all, if you’re looking for a warmer tone, a warmish thicker sound, with a more textury midrange, but with a slower bass, and with more lower treble emphasis, IMR R1 still makes an amazing choice, while if you’re looking for a tighter bass, neutral midrange, and for a more extended treble, especially in the air and the upper treble, then IT04 should satisfy your desires with utmost skill and power.
iBasso IT04 is slightly dependent on being connected to a high quality source. It tends to reveal a bit of hiss, and it tends to get better with better sources, but in all honesty, we were able to enjoy it greatly from our weakest source, our Xiaomi Mi Max 2 test smartphone.
iBasso IT04 + iBasso DX200 (AMP1) – DX200 is still one of the best flagships we tested to date, and for good reason, it has anything a high-quality DAP should have. We’d even go as far as saying that you can enjoy DX200 to the fullest with its AMP1, but we know some folks really like to tune their sound a little more, and this is where its modular AMP modules come in handy. Now, about the sound of IT04 and DX200 with AMP1, the sound is incredibly good. If we’re comparing it to a lower quality source, like our test smartphone, then the sound is considerably more detailed, has more depth, better texture, more crunch, more punchiness and more dynamics, not to mention a much better overall control over the whole sound. DX200 is also able to make the midrange of IT04 pretty texture, given its typical signature, along with making them quite musical and taming the top end a little, resulting in a very enjoyable overall signature. When you factor in the fact that DX200 can play music from Streaming services, and has iBasso’s stellar support, this pairing is one we can surely recommend to anyone looking for an exquisite experience.
iBasso IT04 + iBasso DX150 (AMP6) – Now, if you’re at the other end and if you consider that IT04 would sound better if it were a tad warmer, then DX150 will surely come in handy, as its AMP6 is quite a bit warmer and smoother than DX200, passing over this characteristic to IT04, making them more musical, warmer, a tad smoother and a tad more easy to listen to, especially for those who weren’t looking for quite that much of an analytical sound. DX150 also has the power to play music from Streaming services, and it also has iBasso’s stellar support, making it an excellent choice, especially with its lower price than DX200.
iBasso IT04 + iFi xDSD – Our review on iFi xDSD is coming soon to Audiophile Heaven and Head-Fi, and it is going to be quite interesting, as if you prefer to use your smartphone to browse your library, then xDSD makes an excellent DAC/AMP to pair your smartphone to. Of course, it isn’t quite at the detail level of DX200, and it is not as warm as DX150 either, but xDSD makes a really amazing jack-of-all-trades, that plays along nicely with IT04. You also get iFi’s famous support and analogue effects, from which you can add a bit more bass or make the soundstage a tad larger to any IEM or Headphone you pair with it. As a bonus, IT04 doesn’t really hiss with it, so you can enjoy it for long periods of time without distractions.
Value and Conclusion
Now here’s an interesting point, because IT04 isn’t very cheap, and it is actually priced in the upper midrange price bracket, at 500 USD. It is able to stand its ground against Sennheiser IE800, which is quite a bit more expensive, though, making IT04 an excellent price/performance ratio IEM.
Starting with the package, iBasso puts a lot of thought in the package, and includes a huge number of tips with IT04, and they even include what is probably the thickest, most resilient-looking carrying case we’ve seen to date, and not to mention a cable that works as both a balanced, and a single ended cable at the same time.
The build quality of IT04 is quite good, although they are on the larger side, and if you have small ears, they may not fit you perfectly. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time finding anything more solid, since they are constructed on the same basic idea as custom IEMs are (information confirmed by iBasso themselves). The connectors are solid and click right into place, and the IEM has protection against driver flex, although if you’re not careful you may introduce driver flex with them, making the anti-driver-flex protection not-quite-that-efficient. On the bright side, this means that they isolate quite well, and so they do, being able to set you free from the noise of Bucharest’s street chatter.
The cables are not microphonic, and they are flexible, making IT04 an IEM good to jog or run with, if you want to.
The sound of IT04 is quite amazing by itself, having a really quick bass, with a punchy presentation, deep reach, but with a neutral quantity, while the midrange is less textury, being instead tuned to work well with any kind of music, including slow music like Jazz. The treble is vibrant, bright and vivid, but with a smooth texture, making IT04 work with virtually any music style, from technical death metal, all the way to rock, electronic, or even Jazz or hip-hop. Truly a very versatile signature, that presents music in a wide soundstage, with a good amount of air and space, IT04 will be a favorite for many music lovers, except for those bassheads who’d want more bass, as IT04 doesn’t really present music with that large amount of bass.
All in all, IT04 is a versatile, well-built IEM made by a well-known company, and it has a very good place in the market, achieved by their detail and overall presentation, excellent treble extension, bass depth, and soundstage width, as well as a really nice midrange texture presentation, which won’t be offensive to anyone regardless of their tastes. If you’re looking for a IEM (In-Ear Monitor) with an excellent reach both ways, which is versatile and has a nice build quality, along with the stellar support of iBasso, we surely recommend you check out IT04, as it may become a lovely addition for you, like it became for us.
You can get IT04 and other iBasso products from www.amazon.com here: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=as_li_ss_tl?k=ibasso+it04
Full Playlist used for this review