capsule review

Ultimate Ears 4vi

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At a Glance
  • Ultimate Ears 4vi

The 4vi is Ultimate Ears' iPhone-headset version of the $130 4. The attractive, gunmetal-gray aluminum earpieces are small and comfortable, and the thin, black cables produce only moderate cable noise. The 4vi's microphone and controller are split into two smaller pods, each just over just over half an inch long and a quarter-inch wide. The microphone pod is located on the right-hand earpiece cable where it hangs at mouth level. The controller pod is located below the Y intersection where the main cable splits into left and right earpiece cables, a convenient location that means you don't have to grasp blindly for a button dangling somewhere by your cheek. On the other hand, the controller button itself is recessed into the bud, making it difficult to press; I found using a thumbnail to be easier than trying to press the button with the pad of my thumb or finger.

Ultimate Ears includes five pairs of silicone eartips: four pairs of traditional canalbud tips in different sizes and one pair of dual-flange tips. I found the dual-flange tips to provide the best seal, which also meant the best noise isolation and bass response. The 4vi's sound quality is very good, including excellent detail and midrange. On the other hand, the 4vi's bass response is tight (non-boomy) but not very strong, even with a good seal; if you're a fan of prominent bass, or listen to a lot of bass-heavy music, the 4vi isn't for you.

The 4vi's microphone performance was among the best in the group, out-performed only by that of the Etymotic HF2. Audio was very clear and easy to understand. However, because of the tight seal offered by the dual-flange eartips, there's a considerable occlusion effect when talking on the phone using the 4vi; you sound fine to other people, but your voice sounds loud and muffled to your own ears. This effect is reduced if you use the standard canalbud tips, although, in my testing, that also reduced audio quality because of the poorer seal.

The 4vi includes several useful accessories: a tool for keeping the driver opening clear of earwax and other gunk, an attenuator cable for using the 4vi with those far-too-loud headphone jacks on airplanes, and a hard-plastic carrying case. Unfortunately, the cap on our review unit's case broke off within a few days of taking the 4vi out of the box.
--Dan Frakes

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At a Glance
  • Ultimate Ears 4vi

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