Today we’re conducting a quick comparison between one of my favourite earphones of the year with a newcomer to Shozy’s lineup. It’s time to compare the Form 1.4 and Rouge.
The Form 1.4 features four balanced armatures and a single dynamic compared to the Rouge’s dual armature, single dynamic setup. The price gap is minimal with the Rouge coming in only 20 USD under the Form 1.4; 179 USD vs. 199 USD. My guess is the Knowles drivers used in the Rouge are minimizing the savings you’d expect from dropping two armatures, especially when the similarly built Form 1.1 with it’s single armature/single dynamic setup comes in well under 100 USD. Driver count means little in the grand scheme of things though, and that shows when pitting the Rouge against the 1.4.
When it comes to the low end, I was surprised to hear the Rouge besting the 1.4’s excellent extension and sub-bass presence. It does a great job presenting the lowest notes, although it doesn’t provide the same level of physical feedback as the 1.4. Mid-bass punch is clearly in the 1.4’s camp, inserting warmth into the overall signature that is lacking in the Rouge. Texturing is quite similar, as is overall control and note definition. While measurements show the Rouge to be the bassier of the two, it really doesn’t feel that way when actually listening to them. The more relaxed upper mids and lower treble of the 1.4 result in the perception of the low end standing out more.
The midrange is where the Rouge shines in my opinion. It is a notable step up in terms of vocal presence, clarity, and detail, and the 1.4 was no slouch in these areas. The upper mid bump really helps keep vocalists prominent in every track. I’m sure the word shouty will be tossed around by a certain few individuals, though I do not hear that quality in the Rouge. The general presentation won’t win over everyone though. Compared to the 1.4, the Rouge’s mids are leaner and cooler. Sibilance is kept in check, though the Rouge does toes the lines of acceptable on some of my more aggressive test tracks from Aesop Rock. I also found it to be a touch less timbre accurate, particularly on percussion instruments which end up having a plasticky edge to them not shared by the Form 1.4. I think the brand unknown armatures used in the Form 1.4 have a more natural and realistic presentation, even if the differences are exceptionally minimal.
Treble out of both models is quite relaxed and inoffensive to my ears. The Rouge’s improved clarity and detail can be attributed to the enhanced lower treble presence it displays. Upper treble feels pretty evenly represented with the Rouge giving off a hint more shimmer on chimes and cymbals. Attack and decay on both is similar with the Rouge coming across more aggressive and definitive. Notes sound equally tight and well-controlled.
Sound stage on these earphones offers up a similar level of width and depth, but how each goes about it feels quite different. Where the Rouge’s stage is characterized by a leaner sound and more prominent vocals that the rest of the stage emanates from, the 1.4’s low end is the basis for it’s stage. The bass on that model acts like a blanket or wave that everything else seems to build on top of. When it comes to staging qualities like imaging, layering, and separation, the Form 1.4 has got that special something the Rouge seems to lack. Imaging is similarly smooth with channel-to-channel movements and instruments are slightly better separated on the Rouge thanks to the leaner sound, but the 1.4 has got the layering advantage and ends up feeling more dynamic overall.
When it comes to build, at first glance they seem very similar, but there are some key differences. The Rouge is about the same size and shape but forgoes the separate metal nozzle for a more traditional one with dual channels, one for the dynamic, the other for the armatures. This means the nozzle lip is minimal leaving the Rouge a poor option for tip rolling. Most of my favorite tips (EarNine, Sony Hybrids, etc.) end up slipping off on their own. The Rouge is also a lot lighter, and doesn’t feel as substantial. That’s a good thing from a comfort perspective, but it also means they don’t feel as premium. The cable is going to be a mix bag for some since the sheath is reminiscent of those used on past products by VSonic and KZ. Personally, I hate the 1.4’s cloth cable so anything is an upgrade. I’ll take the Rouge’s cable any day of the week.
Overall I think they perform sonically about on the same level, but with strengths in different areas. The 1.4’s bass led signature, excellent timbre, and overall warmth is very relaxing and enjoyable, with the Rouge’s mids and general clarity being the standout segments for it. The Rouge reminds me quite a lot of the Moondrop SSR, but with less of an upper mid push and more bass. Both the 1.4 and Rouge are outstanding though.
I should have a full review of the Rouge up within the next few weeks, but in the meantime it gets my seal of approval.
Thanks for stopping by!
Disclaimer The Rouge was sent over by Linsoul Audio for the purposes of review, so a big thanks to them. As always, these thoughts are my subjective opinions, unimpeded and unedited by Shozy, Linsoul, or anyone else.