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post #4381 of 5266

So some thoughts about the Lab 1

 

I am actually getting drawn into my GS-X mk2 + HD800 rig - which is good. It and the Lab 1 arrived at pretty much the same time. The Lab 1 (and the M with which it synergizes so wonderfully) pretty much dominated for three weeks. Now this weekend the switch is on as was inevitable. So time get my Lab 1 thoughts down.

 

Some frustration in the Lab 1 mix…

 

The Lab 1 is a strange, intoxicating but also frustrating IEM. First the frustrating part. It comes with five sets of tips. It is almost as if Takai-san knew that it would be difficult for people to get a good fit. In my experience it is. I have been switching primarily between the Large stock, isolation Sony Hybrids and Comply Ts-400. The thing about the Lab 1 is that the sound changes a fair bit depending on your fit, even with the same tip. I have read where some people have heard recessed vocals. I have heard this. This is a lighter weak fit – although that can do damn interesting things in the soundstage. A little tighter creates an ideal three dimensional rendering in the forward backwards axis. This is one sweet spot. Sounds layer in a manner most intriguing and magical. And if I sit calmly and breathe shallow, I can hold that fit for an entire album. Okay, it is not quite that bad, but I seriously have a hard time keeping that particular sweet spot for any remotely active listening session. A little further in is more stable and produces wonderful forward vocals. The soundstage is a little less three dimensional although the sound does have a remarkable way of being pinpoint precise on the left right axis while occupying a larger space forward to back.

 

Then there are the Comfort Complys. These are the only tips where I can simply insert and forget. Hell, I can walk around with the Lab 1 and the Complys. The sound is very close to my head on the forward backwards axis with some sounds even coming behind my ears. The individual sound elements also render a bit differently with those big tip openings and the difference is not easily explained. The soundstage is huge in a different almost cavernous way and lots of good things are going on. The bass, which is highly variable with fit, is as good as it gets which is very good indeed. Note that I am not promoting the Complys – right now I am listening through the GS-X with the Isolation Sony Hybrids. I keep switching…

 

Here is the thing though – as amazingly different as these tips and fits are - the fundamental qualities that make the Lab 1 unique and special are still there with anything but a truly lousy fit.

 

It is difficult frankly for me to be entirely sure what precise rendering Takai-san was expecting people to get from the Lab 1 given the certainty that we are all getting different fits and the extent to which these IEMs have quite a range of expressions. But what I have concluded is that Takai-san probable expected as much. His remarkable accomplishment is the consistent element in it all: the unique way that the Lab 1 presents sound compared to any other IEM that I have heard. So what is that? FAD has a certain sound – or rather certain sounds – but those won’t help us here.

 

Not a typical Final Audio IEM…

 

When one thinks of the Final Audio sound, there is the mid-centric quality of the 1602 series, the euphonic quality of the chrome copper IEMs (and also brass in a different way), the unique acoustic modelling, and at the extreme a syrupy thick, cavernous and euphonic quality where all of this comes together, exemplified most by the PF X which I still consider to be the defining FAD IEM, at least until now…

 

(*There is also the etched detail of the FIBASS but I never really got the allure of that; others do love it though.)

 

The Lab 1 is none of the above but it is in my view a real contender for Takai-san’s greatest – and final – audio statement.  

 

The Lab 1 is not euphonic like, say, the Heaven VI. Tonally it has more in common with the HD800. Nor is it mid-centric. Depending on your fit, the mids vary from remote to forward but still nicely balanced in the mix. The sound is not all syrupy. That rigid titanium produces a sound that is almost shockingly proper by FAD standards. Larger tip openings can expand the sound stage to almost cavernous and in my view there is nothing wrong with taking a stroll down that path. However the acoustic modeling that weirdly affects frequency response in the 160x series is clearly not there...

 

What makes the Lab 1 special (as best as I can explain it)

 

The Lab 1 is perhaps the most mysterious and intriguing of the FAD IEMs. Here is the thing: it greatly defies being tied down. As I have said before - a cop out really - the FAD leaves the sense of listening to an IEM behind. This is not because the sounds are somehow escaping the IEM sphere close to the head. The Lab 1 has a good size soundstage but nothing exceptional and unprecedented. No, there are two things going on that blow me away.

 

The first is the natural sound. The vocals are not colored, nor thick and dominating at the center of the world. They are just gorgeous. Relaxed, easy… so clear and accessible. This is one natural headphone in the center of the soundstage.  

 

And secondly, somewhat conversely, it is almost supernatural once you get away from the soundstage’s center. How to put this… even after three weeks I am not sure. From song to song, elements in the soundstage render in unexpected but inevitable pleasing ways. For music with complex elements – let’s take Phil Manzanera’s Primitive Guitars as an example - it can be otherworldly. Sounds occupy layered space, subtly separated in three dimensions, almost shimmering in suspension. It is exciting. Yet here I am listening to James Taylor’s Greatest Hits and its not otherworldly so much as just spot on right. Sweet vocals up front and everything just lovely and distinct in the soundstage. What these situations have in common can be summarized in one word: ambience. The Lab 1 has tons of it.

 

I have heard IEMs that are faster, that drive harder, that have more sparkle, that are more of just about anything. But I have not heard an IEM that can produce such a sweet natural headphone experience that continually surprises at the periphery. Ambience, sir, the most yet from a company that is known for ambience. Here is the one way in which the Lab 1 is not only ‘typical’ but also the penultimate FAD IEM.

 

Well, after a few weeks that is about the best that I can do to explain it.

 

Some qualifications…

 

A thought in relation to the bass. You will note that I do not do a review above in terms of treble/mids/bass. I don’t actually do reviews but rather write impressions which are just what occurs to me in how a component moves my soul or fails to. Hence my discussion of the divinity of the mids. I can say that the treble absolutely depends on what you feed the Lab 1 – super sweet with the M, but I prefer to EQ off about three db with a good Baxandall equalizer when listening with the GS-X mk2, a brutally honest amp. (The result is then superb; listening to Jeff Buckley’s Grace that way right now.) The bass is another story again. It can be excellent – for example in the sweet spot described above and also consistently with the Complys. It is not especially fast and slamming or even all that textured but it goes deep and it is rich. The quantity is spot on and it complements the music so well. In many ways I think that this is how bass should be although I can enjoy a good Kaede grinding bass or IE800 slamming bass too. However… the difficulty with fit can mean that the bass is all over the place sometimes. Pushed too far in and it bloats – that is just wearing the Lab 1 wrong – and too far out and lightly fitting, while doing fascinating things on the left and right of the head, does so at the expense of solid bass. Walking around with silicon tips, I therefore find myself fiddling a lot sometimes.

 

(As a footnote that I want to fit in somewhere, and here a tight fit is key, the Lab 1 can create one hell of a satisfying wall of sound with hard rock.)

 

In addition, this is not the best isolating IEM, doubly because it is so difficult to hold a good fit. Of course, I speak for myself but I notice that there is a lot of tip rolling going on. That tells me that the issue may go beyond my huge ear canals. Even with the Complys, I still get better isolation from the Heaven VI which remains, driven by the M, my go-to IEM on planes and trains. The Lab 1’s ambience can easily get lost in truly loud environments. The Heaven VI’s forward euphonic sound and greater isolation trump it in such situations.

 

But – and here is a negative ‘of sorts’ – it does kind of spoil you. Before the Lab 1 showed up, I was very happy using the Heaven VI as my business trip IEM in all situations including quiet cigar sessions where I could really listen. And the Heaven VI, while not cheap, is relatively inexpensive and also bullet-proof, the perfect portable really. Except that the other day I was sitting in a hotel lounge up north having left the Lab 1 back in Shanghai and I was jonesing for the Lab 1. It has set a new standard for portable music and while I would rather leave it at home for practical ‘rather not lose or scratch / damage it’ reasons, it won’t be so easily ignored.

 

It could be worse.

 

So...

 

I am sure that there are other things that I wanted to say but this will have to do. The Lab 1 can be finicky and frustrating at times but it is a fine IEM, a gorgeous listen, simply a superb headphone.


Edited by cooperpwc - 8/31/14 at 8:08am
post #4382 of 5266
Quote:
Originally Posted by cooperpwc View Post  Some frustration in the Lab 1 mix…

 

The Lab 1 is a strange, intoxicating but also frustrating IEM. First the frustrating part. It comes with five sets of tips. It is almost as if Takai-san knew that it would be difficult for people to get a good fit. In my experience it is. I have been switching primarily between the Large stock, isolation Sony Hybrids and Comply Ts-400. The thing about the Lab 1 is that the sound changes a fair bit depending on your fit, even with the same tip. I have read where some people have heard recessed vocals. I have heard this. This is a lighter weak fit – although that can do damn interesting things in the soundstage. A little tighter creates an ideal three dimensional rendering in the forward backwards axis. This is one sweet spot. Sounds layer in a manner most intriguing and magical. And if I sit calmly and breathe shallow, I can hold that fit for an entire album. Okay, it is not quite that bad, but I seriously have a hard time keeping that particular sweet spot for any remotely active listening session. A little further in is more stable and produces wonderful forward vocals. The soundstage is a little less three dimensional although the sound does have a remarkable way of being pinpoint precise on the left right axis while occupying a larger space forward to back.

 

Then there are the Comfort Complys. These are the only tips where I can simply insert and forget. Hell, I can walk around with the Lab 1 and the Complys. The sound is very close to my head on the forward backwards axis with some sounds even coming behind my ears. The individual sound elements also render a bit differently with those big tip openings and the difference is not easily explained. The soundstage is huge in a different almost cavernous way and lots of good things are going on. The bass, which is highly variable with fit, is as good as it gets which is very good indeed. Note that I am not promoting the Complys – right now I am listening through the GS-X with the Isolation Sony Hybrids. I keep switching…

 

Here is the thing though – as amazingly different as these tips and fits are - the fundamental qualities that make the Lab 1 unique and special are still there with anything but a truly lousy fit.

 

It is difficult frankly for me to be entirely sure what precise rendering Takai-san was expecting people to get from the Lab 1 given the certainty that we are all getting different fits and the extent to which these IEMs have quite a range of expressions. But what I have concluded is that Takai-san probable expected as much. His remarkable accomplishment is the consistent element in it all: the unique way that the Lab 1 presents sound compared to any other IEM that I have heard. So what is that? FAD has a certain sound – or rather certain sounds – but those won’t help us here.

 

Wish I got to try the Lab I. I tried out the Heaven VII and VIII (which have the same shape as the Lab I), and found them to be a great fit --- much improved over the previous housings. I like the new tips that look sort of like Sony Hybrids. I do believe they're meant to be fit as deeply as possible; the shape is self-limiting in how deep it can go, so I go as deep as possible, and it turns out that the sound is ideal that way.

post #4383 of 5266
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomscy2000 View Post
 

 

Wish I got to try the Lab I. I tried out the Heaven VII and VIII (which have the same shape as the Lab I), and found them to be a great fit --- much improved over the previous housings. I like the new tips that look sort of like Sony Hybrids. I do believe they're meant to be fit as deeply as possible; the shape is self-limiting in how deep it can go, so I go as deep as possible, and it turns out that the sound is ideal that way.


How deep does that end up being?

post #4384 of 5266
Quote:
Originally Posted by elnero View Post  How deep does that end up being?


That'll differ from person to person, of course, but it's a medium deep fit for me. It has a tendency to create a vacuum seal in the canal, but FAD's IEMs have also a tendency to self-equalize that vacuum after a few seconds.

post #4385 of 5266

I also like the fit to go about as deep as possible with the FAD tips. I don't note any sort of negative impact on imaging or stage dimensions with varying insertion depth. I note much more drastic changes with different tips. I do note the bass grows in prominence with a deeper fit of course. I'd never describe it as bloated in any way though. With that said, I'm kinda puzzled, I think the LAB is one of the easiest fitting IEMs I've ever used. It's just a straightforward bullet shaped IEM, none of your wacky, so called ergonomic shapes derived from 10,000 ear scans that wind up fitting me awfully anyway. 

post #4386 of 5266
I have found my best fit (and sound) using the large Ortofon clear silicone tips. They are slightly larger than the largest stock tips and hold my LAB's securely in place with a rather shallow seal. The bore size is about identical to that of the stock tips and Sony hybrids. The Sony's (L) are very comfortable but, being smaller, do not hold in place quite as securely.

My only real nit is the lack of some type of clip to keep the weight of the cable from eventually compromising the seal. I am still searching for an appropriately elegant solution commensurate with the quality of the phones.
post #4387 of 5266
Quote:
Originally Posted by HiFlight View Post

I have found my best fit (and sound) using the large Ortofon clear silicone tips. They are slightly larger than the largest stock tips and hold my LAB's securely in place with a rather shallow seal. The bore size is about identical to that of the stock tips and Sony hybrids. The Sony's (L) are very comfortable but, being smaller, do not hold in place quite as securely.

My only real nit is the lack of some type of clip to keep the weight of the cable from eventually compromising the seal. I am still searching for an appropriately elegant solution commensurate with the quality of the phones.

Do you still have the FX850? The clip that came with that is pretty good actually. I've used it with the LAB on several occasions 

post #4388 of 5266
Quote:
Originally Posted by Idsynchrono_24 View Post

Do you still have the FX850? The clip that came with that is pretty good actually. I've used it with the LAB on several occasions 

The 850's are long gone, but maybe I can find a simple DIY solution
post #4389 of 5266

So it seems that my impressions are very personal on the fit side.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by tomscy2000 View Post
 

 

Wish I got to try the Lab I. I tried out the Heaven VII and VIII (which have the same shape as the Lab I), and found them to be a great fit --- much improved over the previous housings. I like the new tips that look sort of like Sony Hybrids. I do believe they're meant to be fit as deeply as possible; the shape is self-limiting in how deep it can go, so I go as deep as possible, and it turns out that the sound is ideal that way.

 

You touch on something here. The Heaven VI are the perfect fit for me. They slide into my ears and do not move around. They are too large however to slide into many people's ears. The Lab 1 is way too loose in my ears. The easy perfect seal is not maintained because they move around.

 

This is a personal issue.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Idsynchrono_24 View Post
 

I also like the fit to go about as deep as possible with the FAD tips. I don't note any sort of negative impact on imaging or stage dimensions with varying insertion depth. I note much more drastic changes with different tips. I do note the bass grows in prominence with a deeper fit of course. I'd never describe it as bloated in any way though. With that said, I'm kinda puzzled, I think the LAB is one of the easiest fitting IEMs I've ever used. It's just a straightforward bullet shaped IEM, none of your wacky, so called ergonomic shapes derived from 10,000 ear scans that wind up fitting me awfully anyway. 

 

Same thing again. Close insertion also gives me the best bass that I refer to above. But I can them in even tighter and I get bloat from the tip. I doubt that you have ever heard that. Again my ears are large for the Lab 1.

 

I just had a eureka movement as I contemplated these replies. I am going try to return to using the perfect stock tips - probably Medium Large - but with these Comply custom IEM wraps on the body of the Lab1. I just saw these on the Comply site a few days ago.

http://www.complyfoam.com/products/custom-wraps/

 

It could be the perfect solution. I would love to solve my fit issues. Ordering... 

post #4390 of 5266
Those Comply wraps look interesting.

I have not tried the Sony Hybrid Isolations before. Do they have the same sonic effects as the standard hybrids but with more isolation, or do they change the sound a bit?

Funnily I haven't thought to try the Ortofon L tips with the Labs. I bought a set to try with my Parterre's but they were too small. Will give them a try.

I am pretty happy with the Sony Hybrids though. With a medium deep insertion they are comfy with great SQ elements across the board. The head stage of my Parterre's is significantly more than the Labs (I love the Parterre's out of head sound). For this reason I think the Parterre's can live happily with the Labs, but sadly I don't think my Merlins and ie800's are going to make the cut. The Labs are simply too satisfying to listen to.

If anyone finds a user friendly shirt clip for the Labs flat cable please share.
post #4391 of 5266
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomscy2000 View Post

Wish I got to try the Lab I. I tried out the Heaven VII and VIII (which have the same shape as the Lab I), and found them to be a great fit --- much improved over the previous housings. I like the new tips that look sort of like Sony Hybrids. I do believe they're meant to be fit as deeply as possible; the shape is self-limiting in how deep it can go, so I go as deep as possible, and it turns out that the sound is ideal that way.
Wait, the Heaven VII and VIII are out?
post #4392 of 5266

Well it is good that I worked my way through my fit issues in my impressions. Replies were inspirational so I thank you for that.

 

Suddenly this morning a light bulb went off in my brain. (Incandescent - I am old school.) In just a few minutes, my fit issues were solved. I present the 'Lab 1 Comply Ring Flange Mod'.

 

 

I am currently using this with the stock Medium Large tips which have been the best for me for comfort and sound quality but which never stayed in place. Now they stay in place.

 

There is no need to update my impressions. My Lab 1 is holding in the sweet spot that I described above. Huzzah!

post #4393 of 5266
As as avid electronic music listener, DJ, and producer, it took me a while to evaluate their level of enjoyment with the LAB I and this genre. I can say they absolutely kill it with electronic, far exceeding my expectations. It sounds really good.


Also, been doing a tip comparison. Just the tip!

DITA, MH1, LAB stock, Hybrid on the bill. The Hybrid are the best for me, without a doubt. Most natural sounding with the most pure imaging and developed soundstage. Honorable mention in the DITA. I still want to get my ears on those MH750 tips.
post #4394 of 5266
Quote:
Originally Posted by cooperpwc View Post

Now they stay in place.



There is no need to update my impressions. My Lab 1 is holding in the sweet spot that I described above. Huzzah!


 



Nice coop! I prefer to use some sort of technique to alleviate the weight of the cable. Usually I just tuck the cable in the top of my shirt, allowing slack, and those heavy earpieces become very comfortable.
post #4395 of 5266
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThePrince425 View Post


Wait, the Heaven VII and VIII are out?

 

Translated from Chinese (http://the-sun.on.cc/cnt/lifestyle/20140813/00490_001.html)(I believed the prices are in hong kong dollar):

 

In the just past senior video exhibition, there are several good agent will be exhibited in September and October official debut in Japan Final Audio Design Senior headset, including headset Pandora Hope series and ear Heaven series. Among the most attention, is the "gold and silver Yen" designed to show people Pandora Hope X, it is the series of the most high-end products, with aluminum body with stainless steel manufacturing, very handsome. Factory said, Pandora Hope X will adopt the new design 50mm moving coil units, although not yet adjusted the tone for the real test, but enough to be called audiophiles are looking for them!

 

Pandora Hope series of recent works without a break, before Pandora Hope VI and Pandora Hope IV, one can see from the appearance of its high-order position; Now Pandora Hope X to spend gold with silver aluminum body stainless steel ear circumference edge design further highlights the senior product unique; their body weight of 640g, although more than two years ago as a limited production Muramasa only slightly lighter (weight 850g), but the weight of about 300g than the average headset more weight to continuation of the brand through thick metal to suppress the sound vibration, to obtain pure tone style. The same series of another new work Pandora Hope VIII also heavy 520g, it is stainless steel with gold ear ABS plastic body with brown around the edges, the same platform type full.

 

Pandora Hope X

 

 

Pandora Hope VIII

 

Hope series uses new moving coil unit 

Pandora Hope X & VIII are used with the factory exclusive Balanced Armature Driver technology with Balancing Air Movement (BAM) architecture. The former will add a piece of aluminum sheet metal in the rear unit to reduce vibration; latter is able to create a greater sense of space, as well as improve air flow, ensuring accurate audio transmission stability. As before Pandora Hope series, two new models are used 50mm moving coil unit, said the factory would spend this new design has not yet announced details. Although the two new headphones have a certain weight, but in large-scale manufacture of synthetic leather ear pads and headband with large, can help distribute weight, wear no special pressure.

 

 

 

Heaven VIII

 

 

Heaven VII

 

Heaven series steel powder injection molding 

Final Audio Design's Heaven ear headphones series also Heaven VIII and VII launched two new models, both are heavy 29g, designed with the previous Heaven VI, V and IV significantly different, headphones chassis with integrated design, factory spend Metal Injection Molding technology, the stainless steel powder injection molding, can surly from the harmonic tremors, air flow and other elements affecting the sound quality of departure, to ensure improved headphone shape. Headset also uses multi-cut rear surface design, multi-angle light reflection, with a glittering perception. Heaven VIII is still on the gold-plated machine surface, we can more easily see the difference between two models. Interior design, the two headsets are used Balanced Armature Driver, structure close, but the higher order of Heaven VIII through multiple consoles, sound more pure, no wonder the price of about two percent more expensive than Heaven VII.

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