In 2016, 64 Audio released the Tia Fourté, pioneering design and technology for universal IEMs that helped push the industry forward. Six years later, Fourté Blanc offers a final refinement of the Tia Fourté sound in a limited edition IEM that seeks to balance Fourté’s incredible clarity and imaging with a more versatile, accessible sound. Can Fourté Blanc offer the definitive version of 64 Audio’s historic IEM?
Build and Design
The basic package is the same as other current 64 Audio IEMs, but with a bit of a step up in presentation. The outer sleeve is a thick, textured, almost cloth-like, card stock, while the box itself is pristine, flat white. Inside you’ll find the IEMs, travel case, eartips, shirt clip, cleaning tool, and 2 cables – a 3.5mm Pearl Cable and 4.4mm Shielded Silver-Core Premium Silver Cable (currently exclusive to the Blanc). The Shielded Silver-Core cable is a thick, soft, and a clear upgrade in aesthetics and feel over the standard one. The tips are also notable for including foam, wide-bore silicone, and a special version of the SpinFit CP155 designed to have a perfect fit on 64 Audio IEMs.
The IEMs themselves have one of 64 Audio best designs yet, with a white aluminum shell and a faceplate that matches the copper patina design of the original Fourté. Inside, you have four drivers (thus the name), with a dynamic driver for the bass, and three 64 Audio Tia balanced armature drivers covering the mids, upper-mids, and highs respectively. While 64 Audio doesn’t get quite as fancy with the design as other brands, Fourté offers an elegant, understated take on a flagship IEM.
While the original Fourté had a w-shaped sound with a strong emphasis on clarity in the midrange, Fourté Blanc is more of a mild V shape, with some clear emphasis in the bass, along with strong upper treble. Imaging and soundstage are also key features here, with Fourté offering a vivid presentation of the stereo image.
The bass is deep, clean, and well-extended, with a slightly elevated, but natural presentation. While the original Fourté emphasized clarity over raw bass performance, Fourté Blanc’s more reserved mids end up making the sound almost come around to a “basshead” sort of tuning. The mids themselves feel largely neutral, with a small low-mid bump coming out of the bass that adds some warmth without compromising on coherence and detail in the midrange.
The treble is very well extended, and adds a little bit of emphasis in the top of the treble. Where the original Fourté’s high degree of clarity was a boon for great recordings, it could also be quite unforgiving of tracks that weren’t perfectly mastered. Fourté Blanc strikes more of a balance with a highly detailed, revealing sound, but one that’s more versatile and plays well with a larger number of genres and with lower quality recordings.
Fourté Blanc has a very wide soundstage – among the widest I’ve heard in an IEM – and good depth, but not quite as much depth as width. The imaging is highly accurate with strong placement and excellent separation between instruments. The result is the feeling of being a few rows back from the stage in a large arena, with a presentation that balances intimacy with scope.
The positioning of each member of the Beatles, and their position in relation to the string ensemble, is immediately apparent while listening to “Eleanor Rigby.” Fourté Blanc spreads the vocals out wide with the strings taking center stage. The blending and weaving of the violin, viola, and cello is exquisite, with an equally good sense of cohesion and separation. The differentiation in the voices, and the textures of the strings demonstrate the strong detail retrieval and presentation.
Throwback metal band Slough Feg hits you in the face with an attack of guitars and drums from the start of “Tiger! Tiger!” While the drums are playing a simple straight time, the guitars are overdubbed and overlapping in an almost cacophonous fashion with the half-shouted vocals cutting through the mix. Fourté Blanc gives a revealing insight into the construction of the guitar harmonies and counter-melodies, while also hitting you with a tight punch from the bass, and a hint of visceral violin-like highs in the solo section. The vocals just barely rise above the wall of sound, demonstrating strong separation and good balance in Fourté Blanc’s delivery of the mix.
Blanc gives you an up close, intimate vocal performance on Peggy Lee’s recording of “Black Coffee.” The vocals have a thick texture, while the expertly muted trumpet adds accents and punctuation to the vocals. The upright bass has a rich, natural sound, while the drums are suitably understated. The imaging gives you all the cues you need to place the band, with Peggy front in center, in front of the drums and bass, and trumpeter Pete Candoli just off to the right – to my ears, he has a fedora tipped just forward, casting a shadow over his face as he lays down sultry trumpet licks, but that might just be my own imagination and not something actually delivered by Fourté Blanc’s imaging.
Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” is a great test of speed, resolution, and layering – but mostly just how hard the bass hits. The texture and layering of the synths is excellent, revealing the details of each one, while the pulsating attack and decay is hypnotizing, smoothly blending in and out with the heavy impact of the bass drum, and turning every bass hit into a small crescendo. There’s almost too much information being delivered at any one time: between the stacks of synths, the deep bass, and the crisp vocals. Fourté Blanc is giving you so much sonic information, so fast, you’re going to need a few times through to fully appreciate each layer of music.
Comparison: Vision Ears EXT
If you’re looking for a flagship sound that gives you great bass, strong resolution, and that extra top end sparkle to go with it, Fourté Blanc certainly delivers, but so does one of our house favorites: the Vision Ears EXT. So if you’re in the market for fun but technical flagship sound, which one is going to be the best for you?
In terms of the look and feel, Fourté Blanc stuns with a simple classy look, while EXT hits with something a bit more sci-fi. The fit is also a big difference, with Fourté Blanc’s thin nozzles and simple design making for an easy highly universal fit, while EXT has a shape that can be more challenging to achieve a perfect fit with, but if you can get a good fit with EXT, it’s almost custom-like in its isolation and comfort.
Fourté Blanc is a more traditional four driver hybrid, while EXT uses two dynamic drivers – one for the bass and one for the mids – along with four ESTs for the highs. With those configurations, while both are aiming at a similar target, the end result is a little different with each having subtle strengths and weaknesses.
The tuning is very close between the two IEMs. The biggest differences come in the midrange, and there are some subtle contrasts in the bass as well. EXT is more of a classic v-shape, with a more attenuated midrange and more bass impact, but it also has a more natural, organic sound in the mids at times. Fourté Blanc’s vocal presentation has a crispness and clarity to it that contrasts with EXT’s warmer and at times more natural sounding vocal. For example, the more isolated vocals on the sparsely instrumented “Eleanor Rigby” were warmer and more intimate on EXT, while the vocals on tracks like “Tiger! Tiger!” and “Poker Face” were more recessed on EXT and stood out more strongly with greater presence and clarity on Fourté Blanc.
The presentation of the stereo image is close, but not exactly the same. EXT has a stronger sense of depth and a more rounded, three dimensional feeling, but isn’t as wide as Fourté Blanc. Fourté Blanc has the stronger, cleaner separation between instruments, but EXT has stronger cohesion in the sound.
In the end, the differences are going to come down to very specific preferences – do you love the EXT’s look or prefer something with a more classic design? Do you need that extra couple percent impact in the bass, or would you rather have more clarity? Would you like to turn the dial a little more warm, or a little more bright? Either way, both are great options for IEMs that balance fun, detail, and resolution.
The Bottom Line
The original 64 Audio Tia Fourté is known for its incredible clarity, and even 6 years later delivers some of the best imaging out there. Fourté Blanc retains much of that clarity and many of the same imaging characteristics, but tweaks things just enough to add stronger versatility and a little more fun to the mix. With its balance of musicality and detail, we only wish that there were more than 500 of the Fourté Blanc to go around.