Disclaimer: This is only my second time writing a review, so please pardon me if it ain't professionally done, I'm just trying to provide my personal opinion of these CIEMs so that the public would have an additional reference.
To allow you to understand my point of view, I guess it would be only fair to share my brief history of indulgences in earphones. I started off a couple of years ago, from the universal Ultimate Ears (quite a few of the different models) to gradually Shure235 and then to EtymoticER4 all on my iPodTouch, before gradually making the jump to a CowonJ3 coupled with a UniqueMelody Miracle. Sadly my mum thought that the Miracle was rubbish (it was weird looking and lying on my table) so she threw it away, I guess its probably incinerated at the time of this review. After relying on my dependable EtyER4 for a few months, I felt myself still secretly yearning for the comfort and SQ of a CIEMs which I've experienced from the Miracle. Therefore, I decided to break my piggybank and go for another CIEM. I did some of my research and decided to try another company other than going back to UM (which I'm pleased with, but just wanted a change). At that time, I read a few raving reviews about HeirAudio, regarding their exquisite craftsmenship and the wonderous SQ done by Wizard. Hence I decided that I had to get one of those.
The ordering process started off with a few emails asking Wizard whether I could be given a discount if I did away with the frills of the transference etc. as I'm really short on my budget (I'm currently in the military conscription draws roughly 500USD per month). So he pointed to my that there was this birthday offer going on where a 8A would cost only USD870+ and I immediately took up the offer. Customer service was good, with very responsive staff who would answer every of your question with pleasure and courtesy.
After reading reviews from various forums, I realised that Wizard actually does unique design to CIEMs when requested by other forumers, therefore I decided to try my luck, however apparently I was a step too late as the website just introduced the option of having a "Wizard Original Design" which costs USD$300 a few hours ago before my enquiry. So I'd have to pay 300bucks if I'd want a special design, which was way over my budget, in the end I settled for a red shell with carbon fiber plating which was a free option for those ordering the 8A.
1 day after sending in the money through Paypal and sending in my orders, I chanced upon a forum where this guy had the design of a extremely nice wood grain with clear shells. I immediately emailed Nancy (the customer service staff) to enquire whether I could change my orders. Apparently I had to pay USD$79 to change my order as stated on the website (which I overlooked). General gist of the reason she gave was that they had ordered the material and I'd have to pay for the wastage if I want to change my design. I felt that it was borderline absurd as it was only 1 day after I sent in my orders/payment, surely they should at least give like 3days period of grace? Furthermore, its not like we are ordering some cheap $200 earpiece, it costs nearly to a grand, surely the price tag could overlook this regulation that they have in place? But nope, they were adamant on this regulation and I had to stick with my original design as I didn't have the budget to pay for another $79. However, this was my fault for being fickle-minded and also overlooking the T&Cs, just that I believe they should have some sort of grace period.
The turnover time was acceptable and as stated, they received my impressions on 2nd July, and my CIEMs was done and ready to be shipped by the end of July. I received them on the 1st of August, which was roughly a turnover of 30days. They went the extra mile to take pictures of my completed CIEMs and sent me for reconfirmation before shipping, which I thought was a nice touch. It arrived as a normal package with the otterbox. And this is basically the whole ordering process.
The first impression that came to me when I first look at it was that it was impeccably crafted to perfection. The finish was great with no bubbles or any other minor flaws. Colour was as expected and the carbon fiber was amazingly unique in the way that it reflects light and the colour and texture of it changes when you tilt it from side to side. Before I received my CIEMs, I would say I have a bit of regret not being able to switch to the wooden plates which I want. However, now that I've received this carbon fiber beauty, I wouldn't mind it at all, its a beauty to look at, and probably more unique than the wood grains due to its reflective nature.
Fit was good on first try, however after a prolong period of usage, I realised that my right cannal is made much deeper than my left canal (after close inspection, I realised that they were equal in length, so its probably my right canal is shorter than my left canal). The fit is good in the sense that it gives me a complete seal, allowing the bass to work its magic and also provide excellent isolation. However, on my personal preference level, i find the canal to be a tad too intrusive, perhaps 1mm shorter would be perfect for me. This is because when I had my Miracle on in the past, they felt like I was wearing nothing at all, but with the 8A I had the feeling that I'm wearing something as my ears wrapped around the CIEM and the canal pressed against the bending of my ear canals. While it does not feel uncomfortable, its just not as comfortable as I thought how it should be. Imagine wearing a shirt 1 size smaller than usual, you would probably still fit in, and not feel uncomfortable, but it just doesn't feel as comfortable. Again, it could be because of my ears which doesn't conform to normal standards of having equal length canal.
I guess I could live with this as shipping back the CIEMs for return would require me to pay for MY shipping fees, THEIR shipping fees and also GST which cost $90+, which would total up to $150. I would probably have to live of scraps from the rubbish bin if I were to send them back. Maybe I would send them an email soon to see what I could do about it.
The cable given is just a normal looking braided cable which looks sturdy enough for normal usage, it looks like it could last roughly 2years. What I didn't like was the split junction where the the wires are supposed to go outwards due to the design of the placement holder, but then instead it was forced inwards again due to the slider. (Hard to put into words, would upload picture asap)
And yes, I didn't order the Magnus 1 cable due to lack of funds.
Using a Blackberry 9930 Phone, an iPod Touch.
When i first listened to 8A, the first thought that came to my mind was that the bass was overwhelming. After listening to 10mins or so, I went back to my EtyER4, that's when the sudden realisation hit me that it wasn't the 8A which had overwhelming bass, its the Etys which didn't have enough bass. The bass of 8A was hard hitting, yet well controlled on tracks such as Billie Jean. However, I realised that while it doesn't expose the flaws of a lower quality track, 8A's bass tends to sound a little muffled if met with a lower quality track (say 192~128kbps). It had absolutely no problems with the better tracks. In fact, I was mind blown when I listened to "Boom Boom Pow" the bass was simply... wow, it made it sound as if they had a dynamic driver inside these CIEMs.
Other areas are probably what you can read from others' review. Initially I was wondering why everyone was saying that the mids and highs are more recessed and not as forward and sparkly. For someone who have been using EtysER4 for quite some time, I would certainly agree with this statement, but after listening for quite some time, I have this thinking that while it doesn't seem as sparkly and forward, however the smoothness of the music makes you generate less fatigue when listening for long periods, and it also gives a more musical and smooth rolling effect. Previously, I would be more focused on the vocals as the forwardness always steals the limelight, but with the 8As, it places the singer alongside with the instruments, allowing you to take a step back and take in everything together as a an entity rather than only able to focus on either the vocal or the instrument.
I'd say I have not spent enough time with my 8As to come up with a more detailed review on its sound quality. Therefore, I would be ending my review on its sound quality here, only adding on after I spend more time with it, and after using better source and amp with it.
While the slogan of HeirAudio is "fit for a king", I would say that the price is also more suited for royalties. While the price of the CIEMs remains acceptable, the customisation options are plentiful with each coming at a price of their own. While I believe it is perfectly alright to charge for carbon fiber or wood plating, however, options such as different colour for each side, clear canals and many more, all which I believe should be waived of its fee due to it being rudimentary to the design of a CIEM. Furthermore, something which baffles me is that MicroDSP, being such an established company, is unable or unwilling (either one) to pay for their own shipping, which results in you having to fork out another $55 for shipping to other countries, which I believe is somewhat ridiculous given the amount of money you have already paid for their products. Furthermore, if you reside in countries like mine (Singapore), be prepared to be slapped with another $80+ in taxes when you receive your goods as its the China law that they have to declare the goods value. Both the shipping and taxes fee are things that I didn't encounter when I order from UM (someone pointed out the reason that custom-iems are distributor hence they have all the fees worked out) but I have no idea, and ended up paying quite a hefty amount for stuff I didn't foresee.
Basically that is about my review for the 8As, I would be updating the SQ part once I get my hands on other equipment, and also I might be uploading some pictures soon. Pardon my poor command of language as English is only my secondary language. Hope you enjoyed reading my review. Thanks.