So this is the second review I am doing on Fischer audio’s (FA for short) portable headphone. When the last one was out, there is quite some controversy as to whether their products were worthy of such praise or perhaps it is just another FOTM, hyper- hyped. I think by this time around most of the doubt has been gone yet some still remain skeptical. Before I begin the review I would like to make it clearer as to how I review IEM: A review is not more than a personal assessment which may or may not be agreeable by others. My goal of review is not to simply tell you what is ‘better’ to buy. ‘Better’ is such a complicated words that we all must agree that we can’t really agree on what standard of reference is, as it is all personal. Yet the idea of the review is to give you a glimpse of what may be more/less fitting to your need as to avoid wasting time and money. Thus I don’t want to just telling you what sounds the best, but more importantly what they sound like and how well I feel about each of them as a whole, as objective as I can from a subjective POV. As I have said before, putting a great treble, a great mid, a great bass and a great soundstage together can easily give you the worst of sound as to the best of sound – it is ‘the blend’, the coherence, the synergy and most importantly, the ‘factor of taste’ that determine how an IEM matches you. That is, do the IEM sound signature fits your taste of music? If not, why bother? Trying to be Hi-Fi is one thing, but trying to enjoy the music is another. Fidelity serves no purpose when there is no enjoyment in the music. They are equally significant elements in the quest to a ‘better sound’, or perhaps it is ‘the better enjoyment of sound’. That is the goal.
Eterna (latest reversion?) See UPDATE below
Frequency range: 8 -22000 Hz
Sensitivity: 110 dB
Impedance: 18 Ohm
Input power: 350mW
Cable Length: 1.25m OFC cable
Plug: 3.5mm L shaped, gold plated
Transducer: Single balanced armature
Frequency range: 50 -23500 Hz
Sensitivity: 109 dB
Impedance: 30 Ohm
Input power: 50 mW
Cable Length: 1.3 m
Plug: 3.5mm L shaped, gold plated
Transducer: Dual balanced armature
Frequency range: 20 -24000 Hz
Sensitivity: 108 dB
Impedance: 43 Ohm
Input power: 60 mW
Cable Length: 1.3 m
Plug: 3.5mm straight, gold plated
Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality
As far as packaging is concerned, the revised Eterna (? - See UPDATE below) is pretty much identical to the original version. In fact you can’t tell them apart by packaging alone. While it is understandable that FA is trying to avoid reprinting the box, it is nonetheless a hidden issue on the consumer’s part on which version he/she might get. The smart thing to do will be to put a sticky on the box. The box of SBA-01 and DBA-02 is another story. FA is going minimalistic with the packaging (and in a way, pretty green). The boxes are identical b/w the two, basically just paperboard box with different color paper lining on the inside. The boxes are sealed by a strip of color paper with model name on the front and spec printed on the back. It is nothing fancy but in a sense, very classy.
Accessories wise, Eterna v2 is the same as old version, a soft pouch, two single flange, one double flange, ear guide and the simple manual. SBA-01 comes with just one pair of small and one of mid single flange eartips, ear guide, two pieces of manual / warranty paper, and a soft pouch. The pouch is made out of padded nylon mesh which is great for ventilation (which is a good thing if you like to put the IEM in the pouch right after you take it off, as moisture is less likely to accumulate). DBA-02 comes with three pairs of quite decent single flange, ear guide, a leather pouch, and the warranty / manual. It is easy to tell that the pouch is real leather just by the leathery smell. The red stitches actually remind me of leather pouch with e-Q7.
Build quality is decent with the Eterna v2. I have had no real problem with the old Eterna and I certainly don’t find the new v2 to be any lesser in quality. The only issue with the old Eterna is perhaps the slight memory effect on the cable. FA seems to notice that issue and change the cable to a softer, less affected type. SBA-01 and DBA-02 are mainly hard plastic construction. The full plastic housing with transparent section might look a little on the cheap side, but the build quality is pretty good. Beside the good looking metal grill on the nozzle, I especially like how small the SBA-01’s earpieces are. I can wear it over-the-ear or straight down without any trouble at all, though I do think FA should have included a cable guide on the Y-splitter up. The housing of DBA-02 is slightly on the bigger side which requires a little more adjustment when wearing though I do not find it too bothering. The only improvement I would like to see is the strain relief on the earpiece, which should be elongated just a few more millimeters and hold on tighter to the cable. It will make wearing it over-the-ear easier. I am quite happy with the Westone-like twisted cable, but do feel a little strange to see the black and white retro color combination. While SBA-01 has a more UE like nozzle size and DBA-02 has a more Westone/Shure like nozzle, they are not totally confirmed to the common standard. SBA-01 nozzle is smooth with no bump/ridge to hold the eartips, and Comply T400 is slightly too big to have a firm grip. DBA-02 nozzle is simply a little too long for most single flange from other companies, which exposes the filter closer to earwax. Comply T100 or P-series (for Westone) seems to fit fine on the DBA-02 though. Shure olive will probably fit as well but it will be on the tighter side. Microphonic is not a big issue with all three models since they are designed to be wore over-the-ear. Isolation is great on Eterna stock bi-flange, but a little below average for SBA-01 and DBA-02. They are still however enough for street use, but I won’t recommend them on extremely noisy environment.
Overall I am happy with all three models. FA has shown improvement on build quality since I last reviewed the company’s products.
As always, I put in roughly 50 hours of burn-in (each) before the audition. I do not find any major change during the process.
The old Eterna is a very musical sounding IEM. It has a slightly warm and an upfront presentation that is ‘not about accuracy of the sonic reproduction, but the 110% dedication to fun and music enjoyment’. The new Eterna (? - See UPDATE below) is technically more balanced and polite. It still retains the same warm sound, but in a lesser form. Treble is smooth and fairly detail, but rolls off just a little early. Mid is full, decently sweet but feels a little dull. Bass has good impact and decent bodied, but a tad too slow and slightly congressed. Soundstage is slightly above average though lacks a real sense of air. In a quick sum, the new Eterna sounds like a compressed version of the old version – less extreme edges, more polite yet also lost the ‘magical blend’ which I rated so highly.
From looking into the transparent housing, SBA-01 has a rounded BA driver which I assume to be Siren transducer by Knowles. Since this is not the first Siren transducer I have heard, it becomes apparent that all Siren transducer share some common characteristic in sound signature. That is they all sound warm and musical in different degree. The overall SBA-01 sound signature is also in similar trend, but with a full sounding mid, especially in the upper region. Treble is well extended though not quite as refine and lacks good sparkle. Mid is decently full with a sweet vocal, but a little harsh on the upper region when in loud volume. Bass is quite deep with a good speed and impact but not vest in body. Soundstage is about average.
DBA-02 is fairly balanced sounding with a brighter, more analytical presentation. Treble is very well extended to the top, detailed and full of sparkle, but might be a little too aggressive for non-analytical listener. Mid has good texture, neither too forward nor recessed, but the upper mid is a little more forward which can sound slightly harsh on brighter music. Bass has good impact, body and speed. Not quantitatively big, but above average. Soundstage is quite good, very airy.
In just little over half-a-year since I wrote about Fischer Audio, I have seen the company’s market expended in both demographic and product line. While I am not too impressed by the retuned Eterna (? - See UPDATE below), SBA-01 and especially DBA-02 really standout well as the company new venture into balanced armature based IEM. More importantly, I am glad to see FA still maintains its bang for buck pricing policy and willingness to explore the unknown territory. I have given the old Eterna an SDA for its unique blend of sonic signature, and now I think it is time for the new flagship DBA-02 to receive the same recommendation for its technical performance.
The MSRP are $59 for Eterna, $76 for SBA-01 and $150 for DBA-02. Actual street price might be higher.
Read the quick sum up here.
[UPDATE] I got words that the new Eterna I have could very well be a beta unit which might not be the same as the new revised version due to some shipping error. So this basically throw most of the conclusion I have out of the window and back to square one. I will keep the review intact but please read it with a grain of salt (not that you shouldn't in any review).
Edited by ClieOS - 5/19/10 at 2:30am