Shozy Form 1.4: Emotional Technology
Today we’re checking out one of Shozy’s newest, the Form 1.4.
The Form 1.4 builds on the Form 1.1 released last year (which I’ll be reviewing in a couple weeks time), adding an additional three balanced armatures to the hybrid configuration. Inside are five drivers, one dynamic driver and four balanced armatures (hence 1.4), as well as a three-way crossover to keep it all in check. I’ve really enjoyed a number of past products from the Shozy brand, like the Hibiki (both versions), and Shozy & Neo CP, so my expectations for the Form 1.4 were high. My first listen did not leave me disappointed, nor have my continued experiences with it over the last month.
Let’s take a closer look at this new hybrid from Shozy, and find out why it has joined the Moondrop Starfield as one of my favourite products of 2020, thus far.
What I Hear The Form 1.4 is one of those warm, unapologetically bassy earphones that puts a smile on my face the moment music starts piping through them. They sound as good as they look, pending you enjoy plenty of bass and sleek, sexy objects.
Starting off with treble, the Form 1.4 is pretty mellow. Extension is decent, but the lack of major emphasis or significant peaks keeps it from sounding shrill or causing fatigue, even at high volumes. While there are no significant peaks, lower treble does see a lift that gives the Form 1.4 good clarity. This isn’t a detail monster by any means and there isn’t a ton of upper treble shimmer and sheen, but the information is there and the quality is high, it’s just not shoved in your face. I was quite impressed with the 1.4’s attack and decay. While the presentation is reasonably tame, these armatures are quick and well controlled and offer a very tight, clean experience. Still, if an analytic sound is what you’re after you are better off buying something like the EarNiNE EN2J or TinHiFi P1.
The midrange on this earphone is flat out gorgeous in my opinion. When it comes to vocals in my music, they fall into the “take it or leave it” category. I don’t spend a ton of time focusing on lyrics and consider voices just another instrument in the mix. Therefore, when I find myself with an earphone that has me hunting down tracks from artists whose voices I really like, such as Calyx (on Calyx and TeeBee’s “Long Gone”), Céline Dion (“Ashes”), and Alicia Keys (“Un-thinkable”), you know it’s going to sound pretty awesome. Again, the Form 1.4 isn’t hyper detailed in the mids, but it doesn’t need to be. Clarity is perfect and unimpeded by the voluminous midbass, and timbre spot on. Nothing sounds plasticy, dry, overly bright, etc. Also, you might rag on me for this given this is a track for one of the largest games in the world, but listen to Awaken (ft. Valerie Broussard) from the League of Legends crew. The emotion and power in Valerie’s performance combined with the cinematic track design is phenomenal. I can listen to this over and over and not get tired of it. If you opt to watch through Youtube, the accompanying video is pretty slick too.
On to the bass! The Form 1.4’s bread and butter. The tires to your automobile. The one aspect that carries the performance, holds up the rest of the signature, and ties the entire product together. To say the low end on this earphone is engaging would be an understatement. This dynamic driver doesn’t hold back. Dillon Francis’s “Not Butter” highlights the 1.4’s bass perfectly; grungy, highly elevated mid-bass backed by visceral vibrations from some deep subbass. Detail and texture are handled well, being clear and satisfactory, but not overdone. The smooth presentation heard through the mids and treble carries on down here too. Despite the massive waves of bass this driver can output, it somehow manages to remain fairly tight and avoids bloat. Don’t get my wrong, you catch whiffs of it every now and then, but the scent passes by so quickly if fades from memory near instantly. Despite most of my favorite earphones being BA-only and fairly light on bass, the presentation here is undeniably intoxicating.
Sound stage is where things pull back a bit and the Form 1.4 is more average. I find it quite wide without a ton of depth, not unlike the 6mm micro-dynamic earphones I love so much. As pointed out by one of my peers, as you increase the volume the staging opens up, gaining back some of that missing depth. However, I also find raising the volume brings the vocals in closer. It’s a weird mix of enlarging the overall sound stage while compressing aspects of it at the same time. Given I generally listen at low volumes, my experience with the stage is typically wide and shallow. Imaging is quite accurate with clean channel-to-channel transitions. I don’t find it vague in any way, though it doesn’t offer up the pinpoint accuracy of something like Brainwavz’s B400. Instrument separation is also quite good thanks to all those drivers tucked away inside, but the shallow staging hinders layering somewhat and on extremely busy tracks the Form 1.4 starts to blur fine details. That said, who listens to orchestral music with bass cannons anyway 😉
Overall I absolutely adore the way this product sounds. It is smooth, organic, analogue, realistic, etc. etc. etc. Just toss in a bunch of classy buzzwords, heap some more praise on the pile, then cap things off with two thumbs up and a toothy smile *ding*. This earphone kicks @$$. Oh yeah, and make sure you read the disclaimer. This review is subjective if you hadn’t figured that out already. The Form 1.4 doesn’t measure perfectly and is objectively just okay. That doesn’t matter to me. My interpretation of the Form 1.4’s tune is that is was designed to elicit strong emotions from the listener, and I think it succeeds in spades.
Compared to a Peer
BGVP DMS (159.00 USD): Bass out of the 1+6 (one dynamic, six armatures) DMS digs a little deeper with less midbass emphasis and more subbass emphasis. The Form 1.4 sounds notably better controlled though, especially on long, dynamic notes that change pitch and loudness. The Form 1.4 also provides a bit more texture. Heading into the midrange, vocals and instruments are more prominent through the 1.4. It presents itself with a more natural timbre and tone than the DMS, but falls behind in terms of clarity and detail. Treble on the Form 1.4 is more rolled off on top with less upper treble energy. As a result it sounds darker and warmer, with a more confined presentation. The additional lower treble emphasis of the DMS also gives it a detail edge. The DMS has a wider and deeper sound stage but doesn’t as precisely image from channel-to-channel. Both separate and layer tracks well, with neither really having an edge to my ears.
Build quality with both earphones is outstanding, but since they take very different approaches it’s hard to say which takes the proverbial win. The DMS is painted aluminum with a similar inner shape to the Form 1.4. The face plate incorporates the triple slash BGVP logo into the vent design. It’s quite clever and unique, but does not look anywhere near as beautiful as the Form 1.4’s hand polished wood. Despite containing two additional drivers (set within a 3D printed sound enclosure) the DMS is smaller and even more ergonomic. Weight between the two is closer than you’d expect given the DMS is metal, but the DMS is, as expected, the heavier of the two. Isolation is clearly better on the Shozy though. Overall, they’re both wonderfully constructed with stellar fit and finish. I guess it comes down to things like size, attractiveness, and material durability, as to which you would choose. When it comes to their cables, well, BGVP all the way. It is stiffer and doesn’t look anywhere near as nice, but you don’t have to worry about it kinking and destroying itself, or tangling at the first opportunity it gets. I’m sure many will prefer the 1.4’s cable, but that cloth sheath completely ruins it for me.
When it comes down to it, I don’t find the Form 1.4 to perform at a much higher calibre than the DMS, but it engages me in the way the DMS cannot. The Form 1.4 had some additional effort put into it in the form of manual labour and craftsmanship with the hand polished resin coating, and there’s the whole wood face plate thing, plus the cable is higher quality (even if I like it less). So, from a construction perspective I think the extra dough required to hop on the Form 1.4 train is warranted.
LZ A5 w/ updated red filter (269.00 USD): The LZ A5 was a hot topic earphone back in 2018. It was a follow up to the phenomenally popular A4. The A5 upped the ante with a higher price tag and driver count to match. They also “borrowed” Honda’s flying wing logo. Since the A5 contains the same driver setup as the 1.4, that being a single dynamic and four balanced armatures, it only seems fair to compare. Bass out of the Form 1.4 is bolder and more powerful, though depth feels equally good. Texture and speed are superior on the A5, but the Form 1.4 provides a thumpier, more visceral experience. Mids on the A5 are slightly less forward and not as dense or weighty. Sibilance can also be an issue, something not really present on the Form 1.4. It has the edge in clarity and coherence, but ends up sounding less organic and natural than the Form 1.4, especially when it comes to timbre. The Form 1.4 has a much more relaxed treble region, in particular the brilliance region. Even with the more restrained red filter in place, the A5’s treble is quite bright. You get a ton more shimmer and vibrancy from the A5, but also a lot more fatigue. It also doesn’t help that decay is slower and notes less controlled than on the Form 1.4. These two earphones are quite comparable through the bass and mids, but the Form 1.4’s treble to my ears is leagues ahead in terms of quality. The A5 wins some points back with a larger sound stage and excellent imaging, layering, and separation qualities which are all a step above the Form 1.4.
Build quality goes to the Form 1.4. Don’t get me wrong, the A5 is a nicely build earphone but everything about it just feels a little less premium. It doesn’t feel as solid and weighty (despite being aluminum) and the stolen, pink Honda logo loses it a lot of points. I also don’t like how loose the MMCX connectors are as the earphone can swivel about freely making inserting them a little less easy than it needs to be. The shape is also exceptionally common and is quite similar to the ancient Shure SE846. On the plus side, that does lead to a very comfortable product that has widespread appeal across a variety of ear types. The Form 1.4’s larger, thicker, more contoured housings will limit potential users due to size alone. When it comes to the cable, I have to give it to LZ. It too is a cloth cable, but this one is handled better. The sheath is almost twice as thick below the y-split and is very tangle resistant. Even more important is that it is very kink resistant. It remains notably thicker above the y-split, and does a slightly better job of mitigating cable noise. The one critical flaw with LZ’s cable that almost had me giving the nod to Shozy is the use of memory wire instead of preformed ear guides. This memory wire is god-awful, BUT, with some coercing can be formed into something livable. For me at least. Some people love memory wire and hate preformed guides. That’s something I’ll never understand, but alas, to each their own.
While the A5 is the more detailed, resolving earphone, the treble can get out of hand. It also sounds much less natural than the Form 1.4. Shozy for the win.
In The Ear The Form 1.4 features organically shaped, 3D printed earpieces using imported stabilized wood face plates that are unique to each earphone. The protective resin coating is polished by hand bringing further personalization and craftsmanship to the project. I’m strongly reminded of the Limited Edition Kinera IDUN which also utilized 3D printed housings and stabilized wood face plates, and as a result has a similarly unique quality to each model. The Form 1.4 looks and feels just as premium thanks to the more smoothly integrated 2-pin connectors, metal nozzles, and metal vent hole on the rear face of each ear piece. That said, I appreciate Kinera’s decision to use a clear resin instead. It allows you to peer inside and appreciate the various components that make it tick. Being able to do the same with the Form 1.4 would have been nice. Regardless, it is a beautifully crafted and constructed earphone that is every bit as premium as something costing twice as much.
While the ear pieces are a work of art, the cable is hit and miss. Mostly miss. Let’s start with the good stuff, that being the hardware. The chromed 0.78mm 2-pin plugs look great and sit mostly flush with the body of the earphone. It would be better if they were recessed slightly to add some additional protection against bending, but I’m cool with them as-is. The straight jack feels like a high quality piece with a weighty metal and (faux?) carbon fibre construction. They even laser etched the Shozy brand name onto one of the chrome rings so you won’t have to worry about it rubbing off over time. Strain relief is a little stubby, but the rubber used is soft enough to provide adequate protection. Above the y-split is a small metal bead that functions as a chin cinch. It works well despite the weight. The y-split carries on the chrome/carbon fibre aesthetic and looks fantastic, though there is a complete lack of strain relief. Normally this would be a red flag for longevity, but this is a fabric cable and that brings us to the main negative; this is a fabric cable.
I’m biased against them because my experiences have almost exclusively been negative. The Form 1.4’s cable embodies pretty much everything I dislike about this style of cable. Below the y-split its actually not terrible though. The weave is loose but because of the way a fabric sheath reacts to twisting, feels sturdy and stable. Its not resistant to tangling though. Above the y-split certainly isn’t either. Not only does it tangle with ease, but small kinks develop the moment the cable twists or loops in the wrong direction. You must be very careful when wrapping it up and putting it in the case, and equally cautious when removing it from the case for your next listening session. Do not absentmindedly toss this cable in your pocket unless you want to spend the next 10 days trying to unravel the chaos it will inevitably become. The preformed ear guides are thankfully fine. While they aren’t particularly nice looking, they are flexible and do a decent job keeping the cable behind your ear where it should be. Personally, I recommend ditching this cable immediately. It is not worth the hassle.
When it comes to isolation, I found the Form 1.4 quite impressive. With no sound playing and the stock medium tips installed, the clattering of key strokes is reduced to a slight click, nearby voices muffled, and the roar of passing cars dulled. Bring music into the picture and all that is easily drowned out without the need to increase volume to compensate. With foam tips in place, the Form 1.4 isn’t a half bad set of ear plugs. Those who frequent the transit system or noisy coffee shops (if those return in the near future given we’re in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic at the time of writing) will find the Form 1.4 a welcome companion.
In The Box Since my Form 1.4 did not come with retail packaging, this section will be short and sweet. What it did arrive in was a simple matte black cardboard box with the Shozy logo emblazoned in silver foil on top. This is the same box you find inside the main retail packaging of the Form 1.1, so I assume the 1.4 will ship with something similar. Within this simple encasement you find all the goodies:
- Shozy Form 1.4 earphones
- 2-pin 0.78mm fabric shielded cable
- Fabric coated carrying case
- Foam tips (s/m/l)
- Single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
- Bi-flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
Let’s first chat about the case. The grey fabric you find coating this hexagonal beauty seems to be pretty popular right now. A similar aesthetic can be found on the various cases included with the Astrotec S80 and charge case of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless. Not only does it look nice, but functionally it’s useful too. Dirt and grime is well hidden and it provides plenty of grip in the hand. The Shozy logo printed on top of this case will probably peel off in time, but that’s not a big deal.
The included tips are the same as those found with the Shozy & Neo CP, at least in all but colour when looking at the single flange set. Material quality of the silicone tips is outstanding. It is durable and flexible. The large double flange and foam pairs fit me on the CP. While this rings true with the 1.4, you can now rope in the large single flange set thanks to the 1.4’s deeper insertion. It would still be wise for Shozy to include a fourth pair of even larger tips, or even something a little more traditional in shape. Many will find themselves resorting to third party tips out of the box to guarantee a reliable seal. I’d love to see Shozy team up with Final Audio and include their E Type tips which pair well with the 1.4.
Final Thoughts If you like highly refined earphones with punchy, powerful bass and a glorious midrange, all tucked inside a sexy, comfortable shell, the Form 1.4 is for you. The cable is mediocre, it’s not the be-all end-all for measurement freaks, it’s not the king of detail and clarity, nor is it highly affordable at 199.00 USD (or about a billion in my local Canuck bucks), so it doesn’t have everything going for it. That said, that stuff doesn’t really matter when you hear the powerhouse of a performance it is capable of producing.
Audiophiles bow out now, if you even made it this far. This part isn’t for you.
The reason I love the Form 1.4 so much is because it is FUN. I don’t get lost in the technical aspects of the product since none of that stands out. Instead I get lost in the performance itself. The Form 1.4 is that rare artist that performs purely for the love of it. Not because it makes them money, or because they know they’re damn good at it and their ego takes over. It is simply because it makes them happy. The Form 1.4 does that for me. My mood improves and I feel content and relaxed. I’m reminded of why I dug into this hobby in the first place; because I love music and the products that reproduce it. Maybe this earphone will do the same for you too.
Thanks for reading.
Disclaimer Thanks to Lillian with Linsoul Audio for arranging a sample of the form 1.4 for review. The thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinions based on time spent listening to the Form 1.4. They do not represent Shozy, Linsoul, or any other entity. At the time of writing the Form 1.4 retailed for 199.00 USD: https://www.linsoul.com/products/shozy-form-1-4
- Driver: 4 balanced armatures, 1 dynamic driver w/ 3-way crossover
- Sensitivity: 102dB
- Impedance: 16ohms
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
Devices Used For Testing LG Q70, Cozoy Takt C, Earmen TR-Amp, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501
Some Test Tunes
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams