following reviews are in decreasing order, according to perceived sound quality and
ability to reproduce a musical event.
Hearing Aid – ReSound CC4 CIC
Villchur originally developed the technology for the ReSound CC4 in
collaboration with AT&T Bell Labs, so one would expect these to sound
exceptional with this Blue Ribbon Pedigree, and they are. Unfortunately
GN-ReSound discontinued them several years ago. What a crying shame, as the
new all-digital technology that replaced them has seriously compromised
and macro dynamics are excellent with the CC4s, as is dynamic range. Music
is emotional and involving, alive and fluid with nuance, emotion and
expression, this is not subtle. Transient attack is natural, clean and not
strained, brilliant, and assertive, decay realistically rendered.
Transients are delivered with more perceived speed than all the other
hearing aids tested.
are richer and fuller, more balanced across the frequency spectrum. The
music flows with expression and emotion, capturing the nuances of the
presentation – micro dynamics are very good to excellent – there is very
good to excellent separation between instruments, and more air. The music is
exciting and vibrant.
is excellent, the highs are brilliant but not harsh. The lows (deep bass is
slightly rolled off) are solid, underpinning the foundation of the
orchestra. Bass and highs are very good to excellent. Distortion is very
low and clarity excellent.
are vibrant and alive sounding, transients well defined. Resolution is very
good to excellent, particularly on complex musical passages. Complex
musical passages are well defined, with only a slight smearing on the loudest fortissimos (ffff)
when the full orchestra is in full cry. There is more musical information,
if not all, with the CC4s. They reproduce the musical event extremely
well. These are satisfying to the soul.
has a bigger, fuller sound without being bloomy than all the HAs except for
the Etymotic K-Amp. The presentation is articulate, with very good to
excellent separation and air between notes and instrument groups.
Background and accompaniment are well defined, with excellent musical detail
presentation is dynamic. Transient attack is assertive without being
aggressive . . . transient response fast, decay of notes natural. On loud (ffff)
passages when the entire orchestra is in full cry, there sometimes is slight
congestion, but not very often. However, when it does happen, the
deterioration is graceful, doesn't break up and is less noticeable than with
all-digital hearing aids.
Brubeck "Time Out" (and Rollins' "Way Out West") the sound is wonderful –
excellent example of getting the balance right and treating the background
(accompaniment) and the foreground (solo) correctly. (This is also evident
at the beginning of the Tchsikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with Curzon.) No
digital or any other hearing aids I have tested gets this right (except for
the Etymotic K-Amp)!
Brubeck's piano sounds just right, excellent transient attack and decay of
notes, with balanced presentation of each note in the chords in the right
and left hands. Rich piano sound!
Separation and air are very good, with excellent micro and macro dynamics,
resulting in more expression and emotion. Drums have snap – balance of
instruments realistic. Background and accompaniment are balanced.
Cardas Sweep Record
– Frequency sweep from 30 to 30K hertz – a fair, barely acceptable sweep –
no suck outs, one notch, some minor wavering, no warbling. The notch was at
mid-high. There was excellent high frequency extension. Deep bass was
poor. Most of the frequency band sweep was even with right and left HAs
thousands of hours of listening to music with the CC4s, they consistently
sound very good to excellent. With the CC4s, the music is lively, richer,
fuller, there is just more sound; micro dynamics brings the music alive with
emotion and expression – there is nice background detail with air and
separation between instruments – excellent balance between instruments and
frequency range is extended in the highs and bass! Percussion is +++++,
cymbals sound right, and one can hear brushes against brass. It's
toe-tapping good. The CC4s kick butt!
All-Digital Hearing Aids
hearing aid industry has been touting the attributes of all-digital
technology for hearing aids and marketing these devices as having excellent
sound quality, clarity, etc. My findings, based upon detailed auditions are
contrary, and what they do to music is just tragic. Dr. Mead Killion, who has
conducted exhaustive research into the reproduction of accurate sound vs.
colored sound and people's preferences for colored or high fidelity
reproduction and people's capability to understand speech using various
technologies, has also found all-digital seriously lacking.
listening experiences have identified a typical sonic signature of
all-digital sound, which is characteristic, in varying degrees, of all the
digital hearing aids I have auditioned. The sonic signature is poor
separation and air between notes and orchestral groups, hard transient
attack with poor decay, thin, cold, hard, steely, edgy sound, exaggerated or
poor rhythm and pace, poor timbre, smearing of musical phrases, off key
pitch of notes, and high distortion that is stressful and fatiguing to
There is much missing musical information. As audiophiles, we
are constantly searching for that nth degree of realism and all-digital
doesn't even come close. At its best, it is unable to portray any palpable
presence or soundstage. Resolution is worse than poor. My sense is the
problems occur in the A/D and D/A conversion, interpolation, low sampling
rates and word length, inadequate processing algorithms, etc.
I am loath to fill this space with negative reviews of unacceptable
products, I think it is important for audiophiles to understand and be aware
of what to expect in respect to sound quality from the all-digital, new
generation of the most popular hearing aids. Following are reviews of the
best of the unacceptable.