Pros: Cable, bass, treble, build quality
Cons: Sensitivity to bad recordings, could be tricky to get perfect seal for people with large/deep canal
First of all, a big THANK YOU to Michael Lin from FIDUE for providing the review unit. It is much appreciated, and my humble ears are feeling so incredibly honoured to be included as one of the reviewers
This is the first triple hybrid IEM from Fidue, and it is being offered as one of the top offering from Fidue, alongside its single dynamic A81.
- Driver: 10mm Exclusive Dynamic & Dual-Balanced Armature Drivers
- Frequency Range: 9-31,000 Hz
- Impedance: 11Ω
- Sensitivity: 104dB
- Max Input Power: 30mW
- Distortion: <1%
- Plug: 3.5mm stereo, gold-plated (MP3, iPod, iPhone & iPad Supported)
- Cable: 1.3 m
Hybrid IEM has taken the music world by storm lately, with more than half of vendor have an offering or two, so when I was given the opportunity to audition and review A83, I gladly accepted the offer with open hands.
With many excellent offering lately from different manufacturers, A83 does have a lot of competition, and being priced across the top end of the market, there is no doubt that people will have somewhat big expectations. How will it perform, and will it satisfy the enthusiast and audiophiles? How does it compare to some of the competitors in the market?
The components that I used for this review are as follows
- iPod Classic (straight, and through C&C BH)
- Fiio X5 DAP
- Desktop (through Aune T1)
- MacBook Air (straight out, and through Dragonfly)
- Spotify (highest quality streaming), 320k MP3’s, 16/44 and 24/96 FLAC’s
Packaging and accessories
The packaging of A83 is standard retail packaging, carton outer and hard foam liner inside, with black and green being the prominent two colours.
Tips wise, there are single-flange silicones (S/M/L), dual-flange silicone (S/L), and a pair of foam. Also, there are also an airline adapter, and a 6.3mm adapter.
The case is very good, it is an otterbox drybox 1000 style case, as well as a hard foam winder and the earpiece placer, cut and measured to perfection for the case. This way, your investment is superbly protected to avoid it to move inside and hitting the case.
Build Quaility, Isolation, and Comfort
The body is ergonomic type, similar build to universal CIEM, though not as thick nor solid, but feels strong and can take some rough treatments. Right and left are easily distinguishable by the red and blue shell colour. The overall finish is top class with gold-coloured layered fascia with a white logo. It’s very unique and it you can spot it and know what it is if you see someone else is using them.
The cable is detachable and using the MMCX connector, and a rather long yet soft and flexible memory wire. The quality of the silver-plater copper cable itself is, well, absolutely superb, hands down, the best standard cable of any universal IEM and CIEM that I have ever encountered, full stop. It’s dual-braided and solid, yet it is soft and flexible enough and tangle-free, and it is pretty much unbreakable (unless if you try to do it using tools such as scissor or pliers of course)
Comfort relies heavily on the tip that you are using, and to some extend it can depends on the size and depth of your canal, for those whose canal is deeper and bigger, you have to use a large-sized tips, or longer tips, as due to the wide body, you won’t be able to push this too deep. Isolation is not too bad, and again, depends on your ear size and the tips that you are using. For me personally, this doesn’t isolate as well as the barrel-type body IEM
A quick note here before we go on to the sound, historically I like using large-bore tips whenever possible, mainly because of the bigger soundstage, and enhanced bass effect to some extent. The same applies here, for the purpose of this review, I am using UE TF10’s large silicone, as that is the only silicone from my collection that gives me good seal, as mentioned above I have a rather large and deep canal that requires me to use a large and long silicone tips with this kind of body. Comply foam tips works too, but I feel that using Comply takes away little bit of clarity/sparkle from the sound
The general sound signature is slightly bright, balanced, and detailed, very very close to neutral. This in fact is the most balanced, most neutral, and least coloured hybrid that I ever heard/auditioned
The most important thing here is to get a seal that is as close to perfect as possible, I have tried combinations of tips with different bore size and length, each one gave me some different sound
The bass is warm, thick, well textured and controlled, and has excellent timbre. Impact wise it is slightly north of neutral, although nowhere near H-300 nor DNk. If 5 is neutral and 10 is extreme basshead, I would say A83 is at around 6. It hits around about the same impact than DN2k (though does not go as deep), however, it certainly shows up when called upon, after listening to a few pop, country, and jazz tracks, I switched to EDM, thinking that this will be quite boring, but it does the opposite, actually surprised me to hear how present the bass is, even though supposedly it’s not boosted.
In terms of the bass’ speed, tightness, and accuracy, it is up there with the best of the BA’s bass, it is very impressive for a dynamic bass to have such an excellent speed, tightness, and accuracy. Compared to the other mid-tier hybrid universals, it has the quickest and most accurate bass, perfect for rock/alternative music and the likes. I am listening to A Perfect Circle right now, and the way the bass drum hits and keeps up with the music is just breathtaking. Another good track to showcase this is Sia’s Chandeliers, and Meghan Trainor’s All About Bass.
Going back to the earlier discussion about tips, using the large-bore silicone tips does enhanced the bass by a bit. I do get the same bass effect with Comply TS (with a similar sized bore), albeit
with a smaller bass-stage.
The midrange is detailed, smooth, and rather sensitive (to bad recordings). The sensitivity here is so much that it can be quite revealing to bad recording. It can also lead to some sibilance and peaks. A good example here is Katy Pery’s Roar, listening through Spotify, sibilance and peaks are quite prominent, but switching over to FLAC, it renders Katy’s vocal superbly with just very slight peaks at the top of her voice.
Male vocal sounds better than the female’s with A83, which is mainly due to the slight peaks in the upper region of the midrange, although the level of the peaks is nowhere near other hybrids such as H-300 and Altone200. It can be ignored, except maybe by some people who are incredibly sensitive to peaks.
Presentation wise, the midrange is neither forward nor recessed, and it is in fact quite addictive given that it is fed with some quality recording
The treble is slightly north of neutral, has excellent extension, and slightly forward in presentation. It can be perceived as bright by people who are sensitive to treble, however, it is very well controlled, and non-fatiguing. I can easily listen to this for hours without having to take it off for a ‘break’.
Just like the midrange, the treble is also quite revealing in bad recordings, not particularly in the cymbal/bell sound but more so with the ‘s’ and ‘ch’, especially in female vocals.
Feed it quality recordings and the treble shines superbly, as good as winter morning sunshine. In tracks such as Destiny Child’s Bills Bills Bills 16/44 FLAC, all the bells and cymbals are rendered almost to perfection, without anything being sibilant
Presentation and Amping
Soundstage is pretty wide, although depth is average. It is not as expansive as say DNk, H-300, or Altone200
Transparency and separation are excellent, listening to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Cowboy Boots is such a joy, instruments and vocals never seems to be congested and sounds out of place (this track can sounds very congested with a badly tuned IEM – you won’t be able to make out the lyrics when everything is going on at the same time)
Imaging is rather good, though it is not as wide nor as satisfying as A200 or H-300
A83 benefits with amping, especially in the bass department. By having a little bit more power pumped through its drivers, it certainly benefits the bass as it adds to the fullness and richness of the bass.
COMPARISON TO OTHER HYBRIDS
T-PEOS Altone200 (Triple Hybrid)
Straight off the bat, compared to the v-shaped A200, the A83 sounds very warm and mid-forward.
Let’s start with the bass, in my mind, there is no competition here. A200’s bass hits harder, deeper, and sounds richer and fuller overall, though speed and accuracy wise, it lacks behind A83. A200’s bass also sounds a bit muddy next to A83’s.
Moving on to the midrange, although A200’s mids sounds veiled and recessed, compared to A83’s, it does have better clarity overall. For vocal tracks, A83 definitely sounds better than A200, as I prefer the smoother and warmer rendering of vocals from the A83, compared to the veiled, and sometime harsh A200’s.
Treble wise, first thing I notice is that A83’s treble sounds quite warm next to the very bright, very sparkly A200’s treble. Due to the brightness and sparkle, A200 can get quite fatiguing after a while, so for a long session/travelling, I prefer to use A83 as its brightness is completely non-fatiguing.
Dunu DN-2000 (Triple Hybrid)
This is probably my recent favourite amongst all the mid-tier triple-hybrid universals; general signature is rather similar, though not completely the same. Also, just like A83, DN2k’s sound also depends on the bore size of the tips you use. For the purpose of this comparison, I am using exactly the same tips (TF10’s large silicone)
Bass wise they both have similar impact, although in my opinion, A83’s bass sounds slightly thicker and fuller compared to the Dunu. In terms of extension and sub-bass, DN2k has bigger sub bass and slightly longer decay. Speed and accuracy, A83’s is quicker/tighter, and more accurate.
Midrange wise, DN2k’s is slightly forward, thinner, and has slightly better clarity. It is also much more forgiving compared to A83’s. In terms of preference, I am torn in the middle here, I prefer A83 for male vocals, and DN2k for female vocals.
Treble wise, in terms of brightness and sparkle, they are really alike. DN2k can be perceived to have a cleaner and smoother treble than the A83, but this is mainly due to the more unforgiving nature of A83. Give them both quality recordings however, they are as awesome as each other.
Last but not least, DN2k fits more snug and gives me better isolation with its barrel type body. Comfort wise, A83 is more comfortable for a longer session due to its ergonomic type body.
Audiofly AF140 (Triple Hybrid)
Another one of the similarly priced competitor within the mid-tier hybrid universals, and just like A83, AF140 is built with the ergonomic type body (similar to the shape of FA DBA-02 Mk2). To my ear however, A83 is much more comfortable to be worn for prolonged use.
Let’s start with the bass, AF140 has bigger impact, slightly better extension, and sounds a little bit richer compared to A83. However, unlike A83’s zero bass bleed, A140 does have some mid-bass bleed into the lower midrange. Bass speed is rather similar, however, to my ear; A83’s bass is slightly better textured.
Midrange and treble wise, next to the balanced A83, A140’s midrange sounds warmer, as well as muddy and veiled. The treble also sounds quite recessed compared to the brighter and more energetic AF140.
It is very nice and refreshing to see a triple-hybrid IEM tuned differently to the more generic v-shaped sound like most of the current hybrids. As we all know, the majority of the current mid-tier hybrid universals are tuned with v-shaped signature (except maybe DN2k).
Some people might call this boring, but I call this refreshing. It is not as energetic as Altone200 or H-300 for example, but I personally prefer A83, especially for longer listening session and to take with you when you are travelling, as it is comfortable and non-fatiguing. In fact, amongst all the mid-tier universal hybrid in the market at the moment, A83 is one of my favourite, alongside Dunu DN-2000.
Priced at AUD$399/USD$350, it certainly sits at the top end of the mid-tier universal IEM’s, given the uniqueness of the sound, I do think the price is spot on, fully reflect the value and the ability of this unit, and not to mention, there are no hybrid universal in the market at the moment that are tuned towards natural.
Well done Fidue