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How does the Fischer Audio DBA-02 stand up to the Earsonics SM3?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

So I've been reading some magnificient reviews on this iem these couple of days. I currently have the Earsonics SM3 which I bought after reading some extensive reviews done here at Head-fi and I pretty much love it. Compared to my previous IEMs, such as re-0, ie8, w3, pfe112, fx700, SM3 definitely stand out in almost all areas claiming the #1 spot amongst all the iems I've had the pleasure of owning. 

 

Here comes the question. Recently I bought a ATH-W5000 and its on its way, however I haven't received it yet. From now on, it's likely that I won't be listening to SM3s that much besides outdoor usage so I was thinking about getting a cheaper iem (e.g dba-02) which is half the price but having a reputation to be in competition with top-tier phones. Anybody have any insights to this question? Please help!

post #2 of 18

It depends on what sound signature you want.  The DBA-02 has an aggressive top end and a lean overall presentation.  I wouldn't call it bright specifically as the treble and upper midrange are well balanced with each other, however the lower end lacks body and subsequently presence when placed against the top end.  It becomes a rather analytical sounding earphone.  It's sort of like the BA version of the RE0 in many ways.  Is it top tier?  In my eyes, no.  Frankly I'd rather own the RE-ZERO over them which is cheaper yet and also definitely a step down from top tier as well.  I didn't like the RE0 either though although I thought it was a decent product.  I feel the RE-ZERO is a superior product to both the RE0 and DBA-02, and I'm rather hard-pressed to suggest the DBA-02 when the RE-ZERO exists.   If I owned just the RE0, I might suggest that the DBA-02 may be on par or slightly better or at least a BA version of the kind of sound the RE0 offers.  I like the RE-ZERO a lot and think it offers a lot of key improvements over the RE0 and head to head with the DBA-02, there really isn't anything the DBA-02 offers that the RE-ZERO doesn't do better.  The RE-ZERO is better balanced and evenly presented through the audio spectrum, better textured, more natural and realistic, and tends to show you more details in the music.  The DBA-02 offers a more aggressive and extended high end and more ultimate speed of note, but this becomes unwelcome when the lower half the spectrum can't keep up.  Even vocals lean out and sound slightly weak simply due to the lack of body and presence in the lower half.  The low frequency driver used in the DBA-02 matches the high frequency driver in general characteristic of speed but lacks the presence and authority to keep up with the high end, and this is a shortcoming of the design.  A version two of the DBA-02 with a heartier bass driver could very well change the tides.  Frankly, I like the treble driver.  It's a cool part of the DBA-02 earphones, but it really could use a different bass driver to compete and full out the low end.  A 3 driver, 2-way vesion running something like the Triple.Fi 10's low frequency drivers would be a very good package.  It could still be tuned balanced, but it would at least have a robust and powerful enough of a note to match the high end.  The DBA-02 really needs that to actually be comprehensively good.  As it is now, it simply isn't.  It just isn't balanced enough.

post #3 of 18

Some of us don't agree with mvw2's assessment of the DBA-02. I think that it has a rich, full and textured low end that is very well-balanced with the mids and treble. The huge DBA-02 thread has many reviews scattered among the 250+ pages that attest to its dependence on a good fit and seal to bring out those qualities. Preferred tip choice is highly varied among those that like it.

 

I also enjoy the Sunrise Xcape (V1), which has been described by joker as highly similar to the RE-ZERO. I consistently prefer the DBA-02 to the Xcape.

 

Regarding your original question of DBA-02 in comparison to the SM3, there are at least a few noted head-fi'ers who prefer the DBA-02 to the SM3. Do a search for shane55's comments on that subject.

post #4 of 18

Yep.  I'm a bit of an outcast when it comes to the DBA-02, as well as the RE0.  Take my word as one man's opinion.  I simply have certain expectations of sound but also understand what a lot of the top tier models offer because I've owned most of them, many at the same time for months on end to where I could directly compare and contrast them in great detail.  I've also owned many of them prior to the DBA-02.  Many people buying the DBA-02 have not owned better earphones.  This becomes their first higher end product, and they are wowed.  I understand that.  For some folks who have owned high end products, I don't know how many they've owned, if they still own any of them before stepping to the DBA-02, nor do I know their personal preference and how the DBA-02 or any other earphone fit towards that. 

 

Frankly I would have loved to like the DBA-02.  I had hope for it.  But after looking at it critically, I simply can't say it's actually that great, well at least as great as it's touted.  From a broad point of view, it's a very good earphone in the sea of earphones out there.  Versus simply top tier stuff, no, it doesn't compete.  From a budget point of view, I'd still prefer the RE-ZERO or Custom 3 over it, and both of them can be had at $100.

 

If you liked how the notes of the RE0 were presented but maybe wish the tonality wasn't dark, the DBA-02 might be for you.  If you thought the RE0 sounded small, weak, or lacked dynamic breadth, and offered a poor sense of sound stage placement and location, the DBA-02 will disappoint you in the same ways.  There are simply other products that do a lot of things better than the DBA-02.  The DBA-02 does certain things great just like the RE0 does certain things great, but neither does everything well.  I would simply tell you to go buy the RE-ZERO because it is a product that does a lot of things well.  You should enjoy it over a wider range of music than the DBA-02, although I will admit the DBA-02 will sound cooler initially.  However, once the wow wears off, what are you left with?  The SE530 was a great wow type earphone, very unique in sound, very good in certain ways.  I was very impressed by it for the first week, and I had the UM3X, Triple.Fi 10, and IE8 at the time too.  By the end of the second week though, the flaws were becoming quite obvious.  Out of the bunch it offered unique qualities/capabilities, but it was also the worst holistically.  It did too many things wrong despite being quite special in its own way and very impression upon first listen.  Once you look at everything it does and everything it offers, it falls short versus other options.  The DBA-02 is something like this (vastly different sounding of course).  You will go "wow, this is really cool."  If you own no other good earphones at the time, that wow will stay because it's all you're hearing.  However, if you have a pile of other products sitting there, and you're comparing over and over song after song, things show through.  Capabilities, limitations, what it does right, what it does wrong.  In the end, in my eyes, the DBA-02 falls short, at least shorter than products around a similar price point like the RE-ZERO or Custom 3.  All 3 sound moderately different, so one may still be favored due to personal preference, but from a holistic sound standpoint, I see the RE-ZERO and Custom 3 as better and cheaper.


Edited by mvw2 - 2/21/11 at 4:00pm
post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 

Thanks mvw2 and dfrost on your thoughts. So it appears that you guys are in total disagreement over the quality of dba, which has just gotten me more confused ;). But I mean nobody has the same auditory experience so I guess it comes down to preference. However, I deeply enjoyed the thick and smooth sound of the sm3 so according to mvw2, dba-02 will be a terrible choice for me since it is lacking more than the re0. Just one question: what is the difference between the re0 and the re-zero? Are they totally different set of iems?

 

we all know that dba-02 is in a totally different price range compared to top-tier earphones. So it is quite probable that the dba would be lacking in some ways but if the dba's were compared side by side with other iems of that same price range, how efficient is it in that regard?

post #6 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by soocha2 View Post

Thanks mvw2 and dfrost on your thoughts. So it appears that you guys are in total disagreement over the quality of dba, which has just gotten me more confused ;). But I mean nobody has the same auditory experience so I guess it comes down to preference. However, I deeply enjoyed the thick and smooth sound of the sm3 so according to mvw2, dba-02 will be a terrible choice for me since it is lacking more than the re0. Just one question: what is the difference between the re0 and the re-zero? Are they totally different set of iems?

 

we all know that dba-02 is in a totally different price range compared to top-tier earphones. So it is quite probable that the dba would be lacking in some ways but if the dba's were compared side by side with other iems of that same price range, how efficient is it in that regard?


Hearing the DBA02 the same as the RE0 just shows they aren't getting the balance in the low end to hear the DBA as a natural, balanced sounding IEM.  The first couple of hours owning the DBA I heard exactly what other critics heard.  Great mids (thin) and highs w/ lean low end rolled off significantly.  Got my tips, fit, seal right and then MAGIC.  BASS!  Jaw hit the floor and I almost choked on my own spit.  I can't do thin sound, if they sounded thin they would be sold like everything else prior.  You click below to see what I have listened to formerly to see if this is a noob impression.  That being said, some considerations:

 

1-There is still roll off around 30hz but it is not severe w/ a good fit and the mid bass is punchy and full enough to compensate for most genres.  If you have quality bass boost like the Arrow the '1' setting is perfect and you can go to town w/ Rap and Hip-Hop on the DBA.  

 

2-The DBA will never be as thick as the SM3.  The SM3, like my MDs is more of a colored and fun richness w/ warmth for a euphonic experience.  I've always looked at the SM3 like a highly technical and proficient BA version of the MDs.  Some of that is good, some bad depending on what you want.  I prefer the unique flavor of the MDs much the same way people prefer and keep Grados for a particular signature rather than a stand alone go to 'reference' headphone for everything.  The DBA is the more neutral and natural sounding to my ears but always fun w/ good clean body and detail.  I'll wait for AJ to interject here.  

 

Basically, visuallizing body would be like this.  The RE0 is like a .59 McDonalds hamburger (not sure if that price is right, lol).  The DBA-02 is like an In & Out burger w/ cheese.  The ER4 is somewhere between the two, perhaps a Whopper Jr.  The SM3 would like a double meat In & Out burger w/o cheese.  

 

If anyone considers the DBA lacking against anything top tier, it certainly excels in areas too where others fall down.  It punches way above its price point IMO.  If the SM3, 530, ER4S, etc offered me a better listening experience than the DBA I would be using them instead.  I am not.

 

Remember, tips, gear, synergy, ears, personal preferences and priorities in listening make a huge difference.  The DBA's are not an SM3 replacement if that is your target signature but they are a great complement and the prefered signature of many.      

post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaxilus View Post




Hearing the DBA02 the same as the RE0 just shows they aren't getting the balance in the low end to hear the DBA as a natural, balanced sounding IEM.  The first couple of hours owning the DBA I heard exactly what other critics heard.  Great mids (thin) and highs w/ lean low end rolled off significantly.  Got my tips, fit, seal right and then MAGIC.  BASS!  Jaw hit the floor and I almost choked on my own spit.  I can't do thin sound, if they sounded thin they would be sold like everything else prior.  You click below to see what I have listened to formerly to see if this is a noob impression.  That being said, some considerations:

 

1-There is still roll off around 30hz but it is not severe w/ a good fit and the mid bass is punchy and full enough to compensate for most genres.  If you have quality bass boost like the Arrow the '1' setting is perfect and you can go to town w/ Rap and Hip-Hop on the DBA.  

 

2-The DBA will never be as thick as the SM3.  The SM3, like my MDs is more of a colored and fun richness w/ warmth for a euphonic experience.  I've always looked at the SM3 like a highly technical and proficient BA version of the MDs.  Some of that is good, some bad depending on what you want.  I prefer the unique flavor of the MDs much the same way people prefer and keep Grados for a particular signature rather than a stand alone go to 'reference' headphone for everything.  The DBA is the more neutral and natural sounding to my ears but always fun w/ good clean body and detail.  I'll wait for AJ to interject here.  

 

Basically, visuallizing body would be like this.  The RE0 is like a .59 McDonalds hamburger (not sure if that price is right, lol).  The DBA-02 is like an In & Out burger w/ cheese.  The ER4 is somewhere between the two, perhaps a Whopper Jr.  The SM3 would like a double meat In & Out burger w/o cheese.  

 

If anyone considers the DBA lacking against anything top tier, it certainly excels in areas too where others fall down.  It punches way above its price point IMO.  If the SM3, 530, ER4S, etc offered me a better listening experience than the DBA I would be using them instead.  I am not.

 

Remember, tips, gear, synergy, ears, personal preferences and priorities in listening make a huge difference.  The DBA's are not an SM3 replacement if that is your target signature but they are a great complement and the prefered signature of many.      


So from the analogy you presented anaxilus, you've noted that DBA-02 is an In & Out burger W/ Cheese and the SM3 as a double meat burger W/O Cheese. I understand that the SM3 be described as a double meat due to its present mid-range and the thickness, but what I'm really quite curious is the cheese notion. Can you elaborate a little bit more on this "cheese" factor? What kind of qualities are you referring to?

post #8 of 18

my .02

- Wait until your ATH-W5000 arrives and give it several weeks to get used to, then see how you feel about both of them

- The DBA-02 has a very different sound signature than the SM3, I would say closest to the PFE or RE0

- The SM3 is a nice Murphy's Irish Stout while the DBA-02 is a nice lighter beer, maybe a Stella

- Are you the type of person that will adjust to the sound of the DBA-02 and be happy with that, or want the SM3 back?

post #9 of 18

In my opinion DBA-02 is every bit as good or better than SM3 in just about every way. The only thing SM3 may do slightly better are mids, but they are too forward IMO, whereas DBA-02 is much better balanced and versatile. DBA-02 IS NOT THIN AT ALL! It is very full and rich sounding, but is very sensitive to fit so that's probably the reason why some people think it's lean - those folks just aren't getting the proper seal. With the right fit, DBA-02 is every bit as full sounding as SM3 IMO, but unlike SM3 it doesn't suffer from the often annoying in-your-face mids. DBA-02 is a tremendous value at its current price and SM3 is a rip-off by comparison, unless there is something big that I am missing about the SM3 sound due to fit or source.

post #10 of 18

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pianist View Post

In my opinion DBA-02 is every bit as good or better than SM3 in just about every way. The only thing SM3 may do slightly better are mids, but they are too forward IMO, whereas DBA-02 is much better balanced and versatile. DBA-02 IS NOT THIN AT ALL! It is very full and rich sounding, but is very sensitive to fit so that's probably the reason why some people think it's lean - those folks just aren't getting the proper seal. With the right fit, DBA-02 is every bit as full sounding as SM3 IMO, but unlike SM3 it doesn't suffer from the often annoying in-your-face mids. DBA-02 is a tremendous value at its current price and SM3 is a rip-off by comparison, unless there is something big that I am missing about the SM3 sound due to fit or source.

 

See bold above wink_face.gif

 

OP, let your ears be the judge if you can afford to own both at the same time...

 

If you haven't already, read jokers reviews of the DBA and SM3.  Here is a quote from the jokers review of the SM3:

"The bass of the SM3 isn’t all that different from that of the UM3X. It is generally deep and well-controlled – not as tight as with some of the leaner, more analytical earphones (e.g. CK10 & DBA-2) but definitely not loose. It is quick and well-weighted but always remains a bit soft in character. Across the range, but especially at the low end, the SM3 retains a roundness of note that reminds me of some of the higher-end dynamic-driver earphones I’ve heard as opposed to bass-happy armatures like the W3 and TF10, which generally have more immediate bass impact. The bass of the SM3 is not ruler-flat, rolling off slightly at the lowest of lows, and won’t satisfy a true basshead, but for me it is plentiful in quantity. Compared, for example, to the Westone 2, the low end of the SM3 manages to be crisper and more impactful at the same time – an impressive feat that shows off the optimization of the bass driver."

post #11 of 18

The sad thing is you really have to hear both to decide.  Its way more personal a decision to make than for any argument a third party can advocate.  There are just too many external factors and the basic physiology of your own ear canal.  I honestly think they can complement each other nicely.  If not, there is enough demand around here to sell the DBA or SM3.  

 

As for the cheese, for me, that's probably treble and timbre.  I think AJ would say the SM3 is a Double-Double.  wink_face.gif

post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the great insights. I think now I'm slowly starting to get the picture of the different distinct qualities of these two great IEMs. To my ears, SM3 at first did seem to have a up-in-the face type of mids and a bit of recessed highs as it did not seem to extend as much as other iems. But there definitely is something mysterious about the SM3s as it magically captivates you through its different kind of naturalness over a period of listening. On the contrary, it seems like the DBA-02s are more continuous on the spectrum covering bottom-end to the highs evenly throughout. However, the bass on the SM3s compared to other iems that I've heard, is from another realm - it has that fullness of a dynamic driver with the precision of a armature driver. I doubt the DBA's would be able to pull off better bass then the SM3s but I mean its only half the price and to some, it seems like DBA's do things better than the SM3s in other areas. I guess there is a trade-off in everything - I hate either or situations ;( But definitely the DBA's seem to be an excellent phone with that price tag

post #13 of 18

soocha2...

What has been said by dfrost, Anaxilus, average_joe, pretty much sums it up. The sound of the DBA-02 and SM3 are very different. If you really, really love the signature of the SM3, you might have a very hard time with the DBA. It's that different. Conversely there have been many hard-core devotees of the SM3 who once they heard other IEM's, dropped the SM3 like a hot potato. Some of it has to do with taste, rig synergy, HRTF, and some with experience.

 

To be horribly superficial and general about it, one could use terms like fat v. thin, thick v. slim, bright v. muted, heavy v. light, claustrophobic v. open. And while these are all wrong, there is some truth in them, but only dealing with them comparatively.

As others have said, the DBA is not bass light, but the fit has to be deep and tight, with the right tips for your ear. It may not be the right IEM for you. It is for me and others as we appreciate the speed, neutrality, clear detail and ergonomic ease of the DBA. Once the right fit and seal is achieved, the music just pours out of the DBA with clarity throughout the spectrum.

 

If you decide to go with the DBA... be prepared for something almost polar opposite to the SM3, but truly amazing.

 

Good luck.

post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by soocha2 View Post

Thanks for all the great insights. I think now I'm slowly starting to get the picture of the different distinct qualities of these two great IEMs. To my ears, SM3 at first did seem to have a up-in-the face type of mids and a bit of recessed highs as it did not seem to extend as much as other iems. But there definitely is something mysterious about the SM3s as it magically captivates you through its different kind of naturalness over a period of listening. On the contrary, it seems like the DBA-02s are more continuous on the spectrum covering bottom-end to the highs evenly throughout. However, the bass on the SM3s compared to other iems that I've heard, is from another realm - it has that fullness of a dynamic driver with the precision of a armature driver. I doubt the DBA's would be able to pull off better bass then the SM3s but I mean its only half the price and to some, it seems like DBA's do things better than the SM3s in other areas. I guess there is a trade-off in everything - I hate either or situations ;( But definitely the DBA's seem to be an excellent phone with that price tag

 

DBA-02 is similar to SM3 in bass quality IMO - both are very good. Etymotic ER4 has the best bass quality I've heard in an IEM though.

post #15 of 18

I have both (in my desk with my J3). And I'm happy with both. :))

 

Usually I prefer the SM3 on overall presentation because of its lush mids or some signature that makes it more than Shure 535's mids. But DBA-02 is still best on what it presents which maintains an equal presentation from top-to-bottom. IMO bass is sufficient in DBA-02 and is like SM3 in quality as I hear it now. I can't compare the thinness of the mids of DBA-02 relatively to other IEMs (I can if my other IEMs arrives), but its slightly thinner than SM3 IMO. DBA-02 is more natural and clearer. It's not like the SM3's signature which holds up my breath on certain songs with an "Oh My God!" Expression, usually when playing my Jazz Collection. But I can relax to my DBA-02 and say "Nice!" with thumbs up to some songs because of added details and clarity. and yeah they are both very good given that they have different presentation. 

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