Fit-Ear, not to be confused with FItEar Japan, is a company based in California and run by Mark Hood. When asked more about the company, Mark’s explanation of how he operates and what the company does follows:
“I travel extensively, doing motorcycle shows and events across the country. It is where I started my business, years back. Having a high end stable product has been the driving force for us. Our focus, from the start, was placed on developing more accurate reproduction, transparency, clarity and efficiency. When you make a head to head comparison of products, the ability to hear the difference is everything. Our line has blossomed over the years and continues to evolve.
I own and have marketed the majority of products that have been, that are available and products that will be released, in the marketplace. Westone, JH Audio, UE, Sensaphonics, Shure and others. We have used these available products to establish a baseline and surpass what is available.
Each of our custom products, in its design, have specific sound characteristics.
The S (sports model) products are designed for warm sound reproduction, for general use on standard download mp3 and iTunes users.
The M ( motorcycle model ) products are intended to have a warm to accurate reproduction ability, broad overlap crossover settings, depending on the level of product ( singles, duals and so on ). It's intended use is for high noise, under helmet and built with durable components.
The PS (pro series ) products have a more narrow overlap on the crossover settings for adjustable, responsive and precise reproduction. This gives the PS series a more full, clear, clean reproduction ability in high end (iMod ) listening and professional settings using an EQ or board to set them.
The MPD (multi-purpose device) is a product that I invented and have full patent on. It provides adjustable amplified reproduction of ambient sound, in the earpieces, with source capability at the same time. Each earpiece has independent ambient sound volume control for the ambient sound directly on the outside of each ear. The push button control lets the user control the amount of amplification of ambient sound on each earpiece. Source reproduction components are controlled by the source volume and the PS series components are used in the MPD.”
That is a full product lineup, and Mark sounds very knowledgeable! I will compare the PS-5 against two UE models and some other high performance non-US monitors to see how they stack up.
How to Order & Options
The PS-5 cost $1,650 + $10 shipping, and since I live in CA and they are located in CA, $136.13 in tax for a total of $1,796.13.
Mark personally burns in each unit to ensure no issues before sending them out, hence a longer than usual turn time.
If you take your own impressions, use a bite block, but special material must also be used because of the special process used to make the shell, which uses extremely high heat. Mark typically takes the impressions himself and even offered to drive to me when he was in Long Beach, which would be about 2 hours round trip!
My initial ear impressions were taken with standard impression material that is used throughout the industry, and when the monitors were returned to me they looked like shells made for someone else. When I received my shrunken impressions back later, I understood it was my impressions that shrunk.
Where to send the impressions:
P.O. Box 1294
Colfax, CA 95713
UPS or Fedex:
9 North Main Street
Colfax, CA 95713
30 day refit, 2 year manufacturer warranty from date of shipping. See here for full warranty information.
The PS-5 is a 5-driver, 3-way (2 crossover points) custom in-ear monitor in an acrylic shell with a detachable cable. There is a dual woofer, midrange, and dual (TWFK) tweeter. The shell is made with a special heat process and requires a special impression material. Inside the shell, it is very neat and orderly, and the shells are flush with my ears, which is on par with mainstream manufacturers such as UE and JHA. The cable attachment point is raised on the shell faceplate and uses the standard JHA/Westone cable in a recessed socket.
Sensitivity: 117dB SPL @(1Khz)
Impedance: 25 Ohm @(1Khz)
Frequency Response: 20Hz – 18Khz
The PS-5 comes with a padded, zippered storage case, cleaning tool, 30 day fit card, and a care/instruction manual. The case, while not bad, isn’t as protective as the Otter Box or Pelican hard plastic and weather-proof boxes. For the price of the PS-5, I would have hoped a more protective case with desiccant would be included in addition to the softer case so the customer could choose.
The cable is a standard silver twisted CIEM cable and is pin compatible with Westone, JHA, etc. The cable does oxidize over time.
The website claims isolation between 29 and 33 dBa. My experience is the PS-5 isolates as well as a standard acrylic shelled CIEM, scoring 5/10 on my isolation score, which is closer to 26 dB in my ears.
Disclaimer: My review is done in a comparative way using similarly priced IEMs and/or CIEMs for perspective and to determine performance. In this review I try to accurately portray the product under review, presenting strengths and weaknesses, the sound signature, characteristics, and technical performance as opposed to providing flowery dialog of performance without perspective. My ultimate goal is to enable you to make an informed decision about what product is right for you. Take the review as a critical look at the product and not a sales pitch or marketing fluff. I believe gear should be selected based on the sound signature you want and/or the specific use, not solely on technical performance or unsubstantiated hype. Here are some quick references for more information: My review technique, Thoughts on reading a review, Custom IEM information
The PS-5 received 100+ hours of burn in as is customary before I do my serious listening. The following custom IEMs were used for comparison: Spiral Ear SE 5-way Reference, Ultimate Ears Personal Reference Monitor, ACS T1 Live!, Hidition NT-6 pro, M-Fidelity SA-43, EarSonics EM4, Heir Audio 8.A, Unique Melody PP6, and Rooth LS8.
Initially, while I thought the PS-5 was good, I didn’t think it was quite worth the asking price of $1,650. I did what I typically do and compared it with my other high end CIEMs, used different sources, and while at times it sounded fantastic, other times it sounded bad. After some additional listening to try to really figure out what was going on, it turns out the PS-5 is extremely source sensitive and to an extent, track sensitive. The mid-bass, midrange, and upper midrange, depending on the song and source, would shift their presentation location and note thickness, at times sounding forward and overly thick. My testing and description is based off pairing the PS-5 with well-matched sources, which greatly reduced the issues with select tracks.
Bass: The bass is present, very present. Not necessarily in a basshead, always on sort of way, but the capability is quite impressive as the PS-5 can recreate the inherent power in bass heavy music, but other times is only a bit north of neutral. Bass quality is very good, sitting near the top of my performance chart, but it isn’t the cleanest or clearest and detail levels are not quite as high as some of the competition such as the SE5, PP6, and NT-6 pro. The presentation is enveloped in a warmth and richness that provides an organic thickness, especially in the upper bass region, and with certain tracks with select sources (and only select sources), the mid-bass can affect the midrange. It is important to note that other CIEMs also can have similar tendencies with the tracks, but the PS-5 takes the warmth and thickness to another level, impending on the clarity and shares these qualities with the 8.A and ACS T1 Live!. Overall, the PS-5 has excellent bass regardless of the source and will not leave you wanting more.
Midrange: The focal point of the presentation with a smooth yet detailed presentation that is presented in a forward way like a stage monitor, however a few sources can flatten out the midrange location such as the Anedio D1, while others can bring the midrange even more forward such as the AK120. Presentation depth is excellent and the overall combination of clarity, detail, imaging, and instrument separation is impressive considering the thicker, richer note. The PS-5 is capable of not just playing back music, but recreating an experience, and the midrange is a large part of that due to the spaciousness and resolution within the soundstage in the midrange. Vocals sound realistic and you can hear minute details and spatial queues with rich, organic overtones.
With good pairings, the midrange is still forward, but the combination of characteristics previously mentioned result in a captivating experience and a sweet and rich experience that conveys emotion and presence.
Treble: Natural, relaxed, linear, and extended sum up the treble. Note decay is done right with a smooth yet detailed presentation with no hint of harshness making for a very natural sound, when combined with the lack of peaks and great extension, I could hear a 19.5K test tones, making the treble the strength of the PS-5. In comparison with other CIEMs, the PS-5 treble is arguably the best I have heard, comparing well with the SE5, NT-6, and LS8, and making others sound inferior. The presentation isn’t a bright one and falls between the 8.A and SE5 in amplitude, but sounds more linear than both. The coherence between the upper mids and treble is excellent, but is presented a slight bit further back. There is not much else to say about the treble other than it is exceptional and one of the best I have heard.
Presentation: The PS-5 presentation is on the mid-forward side with a thicker than neutral average note sustainment across the spectrum which leads to an organic sound. Note capability is very good, only bested by the Spiral Ear SE 5-way Reference, and the sustainment across the spectrum is good while the PS-5 is capable of keeping up with fast moving tracks. Even with its presentation thickness, the PS-5 is quite clear and offers excellent imaging. The PS-5 is capable of playing well at loud volumes and has excellent dynamics and a powerful sound that can convey the emotion within the music.
The combination of excellent imaging along with good depth of presentation, the PS-5 recreates a lifelike space similar to other top CIEM performers I used for comparison. The presentation is more of a stage sound and overall isn’t all that large in overall space, but is by no means small. However, the PS-5 is very sensitive to source matching and to a lesser extent, track mastering as the PS-5 can sound stellar overall, comparing with the SE 5-way Reference, or it can sound like the midrange is pushed too far forward in comparison with the bass and treble. Thicker tracks can sound honky with a poor source match while the same track will sound clean, clear, and precise with a well matched source.
Spiral Ear SE 5-way Reference: These two monitors share several similar characteristics including that they are both on the warmer and more organic side of the spectrum as well as both performing at very high levels, but there presentations are different. The PS-5 presents in a more forward way as music and individual performers are closer than the more spacious SE5. The difference in the presentation give the PS-5 a slightly better coherence (not to be confused with driver coherence) in the middle of the presentation at times, but the SE5 is more open and airy. Both are very 3D. Notes are thicker on the PS-5, especially in the midrange which helps the SE5 pull ahead in clarity, resolution, detail, and instrument separation even though the PS-5 is very good in all of these traits. The PS-5 is more forgiving, especially with lower quality treble.
Bass is similar in capability, with the SE5 having a bit more sustainment and power when paired with a good source while the PS-5 has a bit more deep bass emphasis through the mid-bass region. The biggest difference between in the bass region is the clarity and detail levels, where the SE5 outperforms the PS-5. Although the SE5 can sustain deep bass notes a better than the PS-5, it is relatively rare to find a song with bass that will show the difference unless there is significant amounts of bass and the volume is moderate or higher. The PS-5 midrange is more up-close and while it has very good depth of presentation, the SE5 is pushes deeper. Both male and female vocals sound more tonally accurate to me with the SE5, although female vocals are close with the PS-5. The upper midrange of the PS-5 is more prominent, but the SE5 has an overall brighter sound. Treble of the SE5 extends a bit further and has slightly better decay, but the PS-5 treble is smoother and more forgiving while not giving up much.
With a similar price tag, both are musical with similar organic, powerful, and capable sound signatures, but the SE5 is more of a reference sound and an overall cleaner, brighter, and more spacious presentation. The PS-5 in contrast has a more mid-forward presentation that gives more of an “on stage” presentation with boosted deep bass and smooth, non-fatiguing treble. While the SE5 outperforms the PS-5 in overall technical scoring, the PS-5 isn’t far behind and could satisfy many that want something like the SE5 but can’t get one due to the shipping requirements. It is also important to note that both require different types of sources to sound their best.
Unique Melody Platform Pure | PP6: These two present in different ways, especially in the midrange, as the PS-5 is thicker and more mid-forward while the PP6 is more U shaped in frequency response. Size of the soundstage is close in absolute terms, but the PS-5 has better depth and height while the PP6 has more width. Imaging is similar, but the PS-5 pulls ahead slightly. While the PS-5 has excellent dynamics, the PP6 is a bit more dynamic, transparent, and coherent, but the PS-5 has a bit higher resolution and instrument detail. The added resolution of the PS-5 accentuates track issues more than the PP6, but the PP6 is a bit brighter and the treble isn’t quite as smooth with poor tracks. Clarity is close, but the PP6 offers a slight clarity advantage due to the brighter sound vs. the thicker presentation of the PS-5.
The PS-5 is more bass enhanced, richer, and warmer than the PP6, but the PP6 can pump out a bit more deep bass with bass heavy tracks. The bass of the PP6 can be adjusted, and the first step of the boost results in more bass enhancement than the PS-5. Quality of the bass is similar, but at loud volumes the PS-5 remains cleaner. The midranges diverge as the PP6 midrange is a recessed in comparison with the PS-5 midrange, which is also a good deal thicker resulting in a clarity advantage for the PP6 even though the PS-5 resolves more detail and has better instrument separation and imaging. The treble of the PP6 is more pronounced, leading to a brighter presentation, but the PS-5 is more linear and smoother while still retaining great detail levels.
These two have different sounds, but perform similarly from a technical standpoint, and the cost is similar when using the PS-5 with a good amp. The PS-5 has a thicker, richer, and more up-front presentation while the PP6 is more laid back with a lighter and brighter sound.
Heir Audio 8.A: The 8.A is the closest high-end CIEM I have in sound signature to the PS-5, but there are differences. The midrange of the PS-5 is pulled a bit more forward than the 8.A, yet offers more depth and better imaging, and the PS-5 is slightly larger in width. Soundstage focus is slightly better with the 8.A, but the PS-5 pulls ahead in overall clarity due to higher levels of detail and resolution, with better articulation of the details that are presented. While the two have quite similar note decay, the attack of the PS-5 is quicker when necessary and the PS-5 can also sustain notes a bit longer in the deep bass region, leading to a more natural overall sound. Both are forgiving, but the PS-5 is more so due to a more linear treble response.
Bass is quite similar between the two, but the PS-5 is a slight bit less enhanced and tighter while the overall capability is similar. Warmth is similar as well, but the midranges start to differ as the PS-5 midrange is more forward yet has more presentation depth at the same time, recreating a larger space. Treble is similar in quality, but the PS-5 is a bit more detailed and the treble extends further, is more linear, and also more pronounced overall.
With similar sounds but different price points and artwork options, the choice is between looks or sound quality. The PS-5 provides the superior sound while the 8.A has amazing artwork options and a lower price tag if you choose to forgo art.
Hidition NT-6 Pro: Switching between these two almost leads to sound signature shock due to the differences. The presentation is different as the analytical NT-6 pro presents from a further back perspective with a wider soundstage while depth and height are similar, as is imaging. Dynamics, detail levels, and clarity of the NT-6 pro are all superior to the PS-5, but resolution is close. The PS-5 has a thicker note on average, and while both are very capable, the NT-6 pro has a wider overall range of note attack/decay, not missing a beat with the fastest note nor having issues sustaining notes. The PS-5 capability is very high also with a more organic feel that comes from the thicker, slower, average note giving a more relaxed feel to the music. Transparency and coherence are slightly better on the NT-6 pro but the PS-5 is more forgiving due to the note presentation.
Bass presentation is different as the NT-6 pro has more deep bass emphasis to go with a feel of deeper bass, yet has a quicker, more precise, and cleaner note. The PS-5 is warmer and has more mid-bass presence, keeping that emphasis due to the thicker presentation of the midrange. While the PS-5 has great clarity considering its thickness, the midrange doesn’t have quite the clarity of the NT-6 pro, even though the upper midrange is more prominent with the PS-5. Treble of the PS-5 is much smoother, but the presentation is quite a contrast to the cleaner, clearer, more articulated and focused NT-6 pro. Depending on the song and quality of the track, either can hold an advantage.
The NT-6 pro has a brighter, leaner, and more precise sound than the thicker, more mid-forward PS-5. They complement each other well and are not direct competitors and both perform at very high technical levels.
ACS T1 Live!: Both are organic and mid-forward in their own ways, but the PS-5 has a warmer and richer presentation while the T1 is brighter and has more upper midrange emphasis. Vocals of the T1 are more up-front, but the overall space is quite similar. The PS-5 has a bit better presentation depth and considerably better imaging and focus within the soundstage resulting in a clearer sound that has better resolution and refinement. The T1 Live! can sound contested at times compared with the PS-5. Transparency and coherence are similar, but the PS-5 pulls ahead in dynamics, and detail levels. Note are presented with an overall thicker, richer feel on the PS-5 with better sustainment when necessary, but the PS-5 can also sound faster due to better attack capabilities. Both are forgiving and non-fatiguing, but the PS-5 is smoother and more forgiving, especially in the treble.
While the T1 doesn’t lack bass, the PS-5 is simply more capable and at the same time cleaner in the bass region. The PS-5 is also warmer and thicker with the ability to sustain deep bass notes longer. The midrange of the T1 is more forward in the vocal region, but the upper midrange of the PS-5 is a bit more forward, bringing some instruments closer to you than with the T1. Treble is a bit more emphasized with the T1 and the note decay is quicker than that of the PS-5 making for a rougher presentation that isn’t quite as detailed or extended.
These two aren’t too far off, but the T1 is the lower cost and brighter of the two, and uses a silicone shell. The PS-5 is warmer, more powerful, thicker, and richer while presenting a cleaner and more detailed presentation. The decision between these two comes down to three things: tonal characteristics, price, and overall technical capability.
M-Fidelity SA-43 (bass & presence switches on): The presentation of the two is fairly close with the bass and presence switches of the SA-43 on, but the SA-43 has an overall more spacious presentation that is a bit lighter and brighter in comparison to the thicker and more mid-forward PS-5. As mentioned, the PS-5 is more mid-forward, and while it images very well and has good space, the SA-43 is even more spacious while presenting from further back. Detail levels of the PS-5 are higher and better articulated, in large part because the instruments are presented more up-close. While the SA-43 has a more natural sounding note in general compared with the thicker PS-5 note, the PS-5 has the capability to recreate and sustain a wider range of notes overall. Despite the note capability, the PS-5 does succumb to the SA-43 in transparency and coherence but is superior in dynamics. The PS-5 is more forgiving of harsh treble, but not by much, while the SA-43 is more forgiving of poorly mastered tracks in general due to the lower resolving power.
The PS-5 bass is much more prominent than the SA-43 bass, presenting with a warmer, richer, and thicker sound. The ability of the PS-5 to sustain deep bass notes is superior to the SA-43, especially in the bottom octave. Overall quality is better with the PS-5, especially at louder volumes. Vocals are clearer but presented a bit further back with the SA-43, and the PS-5 has more resolving power of micro-details within the presentation. While the SA-43 is a bit brighter overall, the treble extends further on the PS-5 and the PS-5 takes the smooth and non-fatiguing treble of the SA-43 a step further while providing a slight bit more detail.
These two offer different flavors of an organic presentation with excellent imaging as the PS-5 is more up-close and personal while the SA-43 is more spacious and laid back with less resolution but a cleaner and brighter sound overall. The ability to change the sound signature to a more spacious, mid-laid-back presentation is nice, but the detail levels aren’t quite up to that of the PS-5. These two can be compliments, or either can be an end game.
Earsonics EM4: The PS-5 is more mid-forward and brighter in comparison with the more bass leaning EM4. The presentation of the EM4 is a bit more laid back, but the overall soundstage size is similar in width while the PS-5 has more depth. Note thickness is close, but the PS-5 notes are a bit thicker on average, especially in the midrange while decay is more natural in the treble region on the PS5. The EM4 can sustain bass notes a bit better and the PS-5 can sound a bit thick and forward in direct comparison with the EM4. Although the PS-5 has a slightly thicker note than the EM4, it is still clearer, more detailed, recreates more ambiance, and is a bit more transparent. Dynamics and imaging are similar while the PS-5 is more forgiving.
Bass weight of both is enhanced and of similar quality, but the deep bass of the EM4 is more enhanced while the mid-bass of the PS-5 is a bit more prominent. The bass quality is similar, but the PS-5 is slightly better controlled. The EM4 has better coherence with regards to frequency response as the PS-5 midrange is pushed a bit forward compared with the rest of the spectrum, but the PS-5 midrange is cleaner and clearer. The upper midrange of the PS-5 is also more forward, bringing certain instruments closer to you, such as guitars. While both have a relaxed treble to an extent, the EM4 has a peak the PS-5 doesn’t have, which will accentuate cymbals and other instruments at times while the PS-5 sounds more linear. The treble of the PS-5 is smoother and more extended.
The PS-5 and EM4 are quite similar in the bass region, but the similarities end there. The PS-5 is more mid-forward, smoother yet more detailed, and offers more linear and extended treble while the EM4 has a bit more deep bass and a treble peak that adds a bit of brightness to certain songs. Performance of the PS-5 is overall higher than the EM4, but these two monitors, while similar, were designed for different purposes.
Logitech Ultimate Ears Personal Reference Monitor (PRM) – tuning (bass +5, midrange – neutral, treble -5): With a more bass leaning, warmer, and powerful presentation, the PS-5 is more mid-forward than the cleaner and more spacious PRM. Overall space of the PRM is larger, but the imaging and presentation depth are better with the PS-5. Clarity is a bit better with the PRM and while detail level and resolution are close, the PS-5 articulates detail better, in part due to the more up-close presentation. The coherence/integration of the drivers is better with the PRM as is transparency by a bit while dynamics are better with the PS-5. Note attack/decay is close, but the PS-5 gets a slight nod overall, and is more forgiving bad tracks.
Bass capability of the PS-5 is significantly better than the PRM, but it isn’t necessarily too much more enhanced. Depending on the track, the PS-5 can sound similar in the bass region, but when there is a significant amount of bass in the song, the PS-5 pulls away from the PRM in terms of quantity. Both are warm, but the PS-5 is a bit warmer due to the thicker note. The midranges are divergent, as the PS-5 is more mid-forward with a more engaging presentation compared with the PRM’s vast presentation like being in the audience. The linear treble of the PS-5 shows that the PRM treble has peaks in comparison. From a quality perspective, the PS-5 is smoother yet still is more detailed.
These two heavyweights take different approaches to their great sound. The PS-5 is more bass heavy, smoother yet as detailed, and presents in a more up-close way while the PRM is a tad bit clearer, more neutral, and can be tuned to your liking, which weighs big on the buying decision. However, regardless of the tuning, the PRM will never have the bass weight or treble extension of the PS-5.
Dream Earz aud-8X: These two sound similar in many ways, except the PS-5 is more mid-forward while the 8X is brighter. Spatially, the 8X presents with a larger sounding space that is a bit further back compared with the PS-5, but the PS-5 has better presentation depth, slightly better width, and images much better. Dynamics are close, as is detail levels, but the PS-5 outperforms the 8X in transparency, coherence, resolution, and clarity. Both have average note thickness that is on the thicker side of neutral, but the 8X is even thicker than PS-5, which has a wider range of note capability.
Rooth LS8: The LS8 and PS-5 have different sound signatures as the LS8 utilizes a V-shaped sound while the PS-5 presents in a mid-forward way. Spatially, the width is close with the LS8 having a slight edge, but in depth the PS-5 starts the presentation closer to you and has superior depth with better imaging. The presentations are very different, and the PS-5 changes the presentation style significantly more than the LS8, resulting in differences in how these two compare: sometimes better, sometimes worse. Dynamics and detail levels are similar but the PS-5 is more transparent, a bit more coherent (with the right source), and has higher resolution while the brighter presentation of the LS8 results in a slight clarity advantage. The LS8 sounds a bit faster and more analytical of note while the PS-5 notes have a wider range of attack/decay resulting in an overall more realistic and natural sound that is more forgiving of poorly mastered tracks.
The LS8 has more enhancement in the bass region and is warmer, but the PS-5 has more capability to sustain bass notes. Quality is similar except at loud volumes where the PS-5 pulls ahead. The midrange is very different between these two as the PS-5 is mid-forward and the LS8 mid-recessed resulting in the LS8 presenting from a position further back in the audience. Voicing of the PS-5 is more natural and the presentation depth and note thickness result in a more engaging and musical presentation than the LS8. Treble of both is extended and linear, but the PS-5 is smoother in note, yet equally as detailed, and slightly more linear.
Considering the sound and price differences, these two don’t compete directly. The PS-5 has a more up-front presentation that is very natural and powerful when necessary. The LS8 has more of a “fun” V-shaped sound that is clear and detailed, but doesn’t have quite the depth of presentation, but is appealing none-the-less. While both can handle any genre, the PS-5 would be recommended more for acoustic and vocal music while the LS8 is better suited to electronic music.
The PS-5 is extremely sensitive and source dependent and brings out hiss and noise most other CIEMs don’t. This is an issue with many amps that don’t have issue with other CIEMs, and I can easily hear the hard drives in my iPods 5.5gs. The excellent treble extension plays a part in the hiss reproduction.
Low level listening is good, but the bass drivers do need a bit of power to get going, especially in the mid-bass region. At extremely low volumes, which is more difficult to achieve due to the sensitivity, the bass punch is reduced. At louder listening levels the PS-5 performs well unless a track was mastered with a lot of mid-bass, in which case the PS-5 can become very thick and the mid-bass can create resonance in my ear canal. Other than that, the PS-5 performs very well at loud volumes.
Sound Summary: The PS-5 performs at a very high level from top to bottom with powerful, slightly enhanced bass, a warm upper bass, thick, forward, and spacious mids, and a linear and extended treble. Despite the thickness and richness of the performance, the PS-5 has excellent clarity and spatially is good sized with fantastic imaging resulting in a very realistic performance with the right source and track. Detail and resolution levels are very high, as is dynamics, and while not the best performer in each individual category, the combination is impressive. The PS-5 is great for on stage with the non-fatiguing treble, forward mids, and plentiful bass, but it can also please audiophiles alike with its ability to change with tracks and recreate an emotional and involving experience. See where it stacks up against the competition here.
Portable Sources, DAPs
Sandisk Sansa Clip+ (rockbox): Let me start with the fact that there is audible hiss and when the menus are used, noise is apparent, including skipping tracks. Overall sonic performance is good with a dynamic presentation, detail, and good imaging. Spaciousness isn’t all that great, and even falls a bit behind the iPhone 5. The midrange presentation is more inline with the bass and treble and the presentation isn’t as thick as with the iPhone, but the detail levels seem slightly lower. With the stock firmware the noise and hiss are still there and the sound quality takes a hit. 2/10
Apple iPhone 5: This paring isn’t too bad considering it is a phone. There is some noise when the touch screen is used, but once music is playing, it isn’t audible. The overall sound is on the thicker side of the spectrum, but it detail levels are good considering the DAC. Of course, the iPhone 5 leaves much behind that higher end sources can bring out, but the sound is better than from the Clip+. 4/10
Hisoundaudio RoCoo BA: The good news is the screen and buttons presses don’t result in any noise, but there is a low level of hiss between tracks, and less hiss than the Clip+. The best news is the sound, which is open, airy, and natural. After listening to the Nova, I was pleasantly surprised with the RoCoo BA. Dynamics are very good, bass is punchy and has a good weight (but isn’t as powerful as the iPhone 5 or Clip+), and the overall sound is very neutral to go with the natural. Space is good, detail is good and I could imagine pairing this source with the PS-5 if I wanted an ultra-small portable. Output impedance of the RoCoo BA is 2 ohms? 6/10
Hisoundaudio Nova: Silent when no music is playing, that changes when the buttons are pressed as there is noise for a few seconds while the red button lights are lit. With the HSA (EQ) set to USER, sound isn’t all that exciting or dynamic and overall the sound is just dull. The EQ settings that are better include Hi-Fi, which brings the midrange forward in a coherent way and adds dynamics or ROCK, which sounds neutral with decent dynamics. Bass isn’t very strong, but the PS-5 is a good match due to the bass response with the ROCK setting, while the Hi-Fi setting is warmer and a bit thicker. Detail levels with the non-USER settings are on the lower side, as the micro-detail isn’t to the level of the iPhone 5 or Clip+, but the result is more on par with the Clip+ with the USER setting. All settings don’t have the thickness to them that the iPhone 5 have. 2.5/10
iBasso DX100: There is an ever so slight bit of hiss with the PS-5, which is more of a noise floor that can be detected when wearing the PS-5 and plugging them into the DX100 with nothing playing. Detail and resolution is a rather large step up from the RoCoo BA, iPhone 5, and others as well as spaciousness, imaging, and realism. The overall sound is a good deal better, but the sound is slightly thicker than the RoCoo products. How the music is presented changes quite a bit more than from the lower end sources, which can lead to a thicker presentation and reveal issues with songs that aren’t audible with other sources, and songs with poor mastering can simply sound bad. Output impedance of the DX100 is less than 1 ohm. 8/10
iRiver AK120: When plugging the PS-5 in, there is no hiss, but once a song starts, or for a while after it is paused there is a hiss that is a bit higher than that of the RoCoo BA. Let me say that the AK120 I am using for source matching is a loaner unit and I don’t know the hours it has, or the condition. The AK120 has nice detail levels and good imaging with decent spaciousness, but the DX100 surpasses the AK120 in all categories. Dynamics are good, but again, not quite as dynamic or inspiring as the DX100, or even the RoCoo BA. While there is nothing wrong with the sound, it isn’t inspiring. Output impedance of the AK120 is 3 ohms. 5.5/10
Portable Sources, DAPs with Amps
Modded iPod ->
The PS-5 picks up hard drive noise from the iPod.
Neco V2: The V2 isn’t totally silent, but quite close as there is a very slight audible noise floor when the PS-5 is plugged in. Thicker and more mid-forward than the O2, but closer to the performance in other regards while offering a slightly more natural sound. Dynamics are not lacking, but not a strong suit. 4/10
Shonyun SH-306A: Hiss is very apparent when plugging the PS-5 in and present between tracks. The overall sound is very spacious, much more so than the V2 or O2, and bass is also more powerful than the others. There is a naturalness about it that reminds me of the RoCoo BA in large part due to the great imaging and dynamics, but the 306A is overall better in most ways, but has more hiss. Resolution and dynamics are good and the presentation gives life to the PS-5 that is worthy of the price. The score was reduced 1 point for the hiss. 6/10
Just Audio uHA-120: The uHA-120 has a very slight hiss when plugged in that is barely audible between track. The presentation is more laid back than the O2, V2, and 306A, giving a larger space than the O2 and V2 while equaling the 306A, but the imaging isn’t as good as the 306A, leading to a flatter sound that is closer to the V2 and O2. Performance is slightly better than the O2 an V2, but the sound isn’t all that natural or special. 5/10
JDS Labs O2: The O2 isn’t totally silent, but quite close as there is a very slight audible noise floor when the PS-5 is plugged in. The sound is relatively spacious, balanced, and generally good with a controlled and impactful low end. Detail levels aren’t great, but the note weight is good, not adding thickness, but the presentation isn’t all that airy. Not the most inspiring combination, especially after listening to something like the DX100, and not as natural as the RoCoo BA. 4.5/10
Headstage Arrow 12HE 4G: As with most other amps, the noise floor isn’t silent and there is some minor hiss. The sound offers a nice combination of dynamics, imaging, and space resulting in a natural and engaging presentation that is on the lighter and more airy side. While a bit more laid back than the 306A, it is similar, but without the hiss issue. 6.5/10
Headamp Pico Slim: The Pico Slim is no different than the other amps from a hiss perspective, there is a slight amount. The sound is on par with the Arrow 12HE 4G in many ways, but the presentation is a bit smaller and more up-close with less bass punch. Note weight is extremely similar between the two. 6.5/10
Leckerton UHA-6S MKII (AD8610): With an almost inaudible amount of hiss with the PS-5, the UHA-6S MKII is a stellar performer. The presentation is very neutral and the tone is a bit lighter than both the Pico Slim and Arrow 4G. Note articulation is excellent and details levels are higher than with the other amps tested so far with the iPod, but the tradeoff is the presentation isn’t as spacious as the 4G or 306A, and dynamics are average. 7/10
Sunrise Dolphin: The Dolphin as a slight bit of hiss with the PS-5, and the hiss can be heard between tracks. The presentation is on the laid back side and offers excellent imaging, good dynamics, and powerful bass to go along with a spacious sound. The sound is similar to the Stepdance, but with a more neutral bass response and brighter tonal balance, better imaging, and more hiss. 7.5/10
Meyer Audio Stepdance: Another amp with an almost inaudible amount of hiss, the Stepdance is spacious and natural sounding. Detail levels are slightly less than the 6S, but higher than both the PS and 4G. Spaciousness is closer to the 4G than the 6S, making for a nice combination that has great bass response and excellent dynamics resulting in a convincing presentation with dynamic songs. 7.5/10
Furutech ADL Cruise: Hiss is quite prevalent and noticeable between track, but not quite to the level of the 306A. The sound is open and spacious, natural, but not to the levels of the Stepdance. Deep bass is a bit more prevalent than with the Stepdance and dynamics higher, but the hiss does get in the way of the enjoyment at times. Detail levels are close to the UHA-6S MKII, but a hair less. One point has been taken off the score for hiss. 6/10
Ortofon MHd-Q7: Sources with notable hiss are an issue with the PS-5, and the Q7 is problematic. The Q7 isn’t a good match with the iPod (output impedance mismatch) and PS-5, as the presentation is bass light in comparison with the other amps, and the tonal balance is much brighter. The sound is open and spacious, but the hiss is worse than with the Cruise. One point has been taken off the score for hiss. 4/10
Lear FSM-02 V2: Hiss is audible with both outputs, but it is near inaudible with the standard output, and slightly more than the Stepdance from the Class A output. Spacious, dynamic, detailed, resolving, and involving all describe the FSM with the PS-5. Bass is plentiful and powerful, and the presentation is very neutral. The Class A circuit improves the presentation depth and imaging as well as micro-detail levels, improving on the realism. This is an excellent match that is very musical from both the Class A amp and standard amp. 8/10
Portaphile 627: The 627 has a slight bit more hiss than the FSM-02 V2 class A output. Sonically, it adds a slight bit more resolution, more dynamics, and better imaging compared with the class A output of the FSM, adding to the realism. The downside is the presentation is a bit thicker than the FSM-02 V2 resulting in a bit less clarity in comparison. 8.5/10
Lear FSM-02 V2: This is an exceptional combination as the FSM brings out qualities of the DX100 DAC the internal DX100 amp doesn’t, such as a more spacious and 3D presentation, better instrument separation, and a more cohesive and coherent presentation. 10/10
Anedio D1: This is a nice combination and the D1 drives the PS-5 well with a coherent midrange presentation and plenty of detail. Notes are articulated with a neutral thickness, and while depth of presentation is very good, it isn’t as good as other sources such as the DX100. 9.5/10
Source Summary: The PS-5 is quite sensitive to source matching in that the midrange presentation and thickness change dramatically. Worst case, the PS-5 sounds “off” in direct comparison with other CIEMs while in the best case, it competes with the very best. There is more going on than just output impedance sensitivity, and the iPhone 5 matches quite well with the PS-5 while the Clip+ is a very poor performer for example. Ultimately, if you do get the PS-5, make sure you try all your sources, and with multiple albums/tracks to figure out what works best for you.
With a presentation that is mid-forward, powerful, and thick, the Fit-Ear PS-5 can convey emotion while doing an excellent job at resolving the recording space. But, the performance can be spectacular, or odd depending on the source chain, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the source needs to be expensive as my iPhone 5 drives it well. When driven well, the PS-5 performs at a very high technical level, with excellent dynamics and coherence to go along with the inherent detail levels, transparency, and PRaT. Both ends of the frequency spectrum are very capable as the bass has excellent note sustainment and the treble is the most linear I have heard as while having excellent extension with a laid-back and smooth yet detailed presentation.
An emphasis should come back to source matching as the PS-5 will reveal noise in your system due to the high sensitivity, more so than any other headphone I have heard. Once you do find the sweet spot with your source chain, recordings come to life with 3D imaging and excellent recreation of ambiance from the original recording session. Bass is conveyed with power and emotion, even at loud volumes, and the bass doesn’t interfere with the rest of the spectrum. The presentation makes the PS-5 great for use on stage use by musicians, but many audiophiles will also enjoy the rich yet detailed and involving sound. The Fit-Ear PS-5 deserves a spot among the other top performing CIEMs when the source is well matched.
- Exceptional treble that is linear, smooth yet detailed, and fantastic extension
- When paired with a synergistic source, the overall presentation from top to bottom is top notch, providing exceptional detail and spaciousness with a warm, rich, and smooth sound that is non-fatiguing
- Very high sensitivity and linear, extended treble recreate hiss and noise from most sources
Some additional close up pictures can be found here.
Edited by average_joe - 9/13/13 at 11:11pm