Firstly I would like to thank Robin at Hifiheadphones for giving me this sample to review, these are a pre production sample and as such I cannot comment on packaging, or accessories. These received over 50hrs of burn-in and small changes were noted. Usually balances armatures are not prone to burn-in, but these did fill out with burn-in, it could be because of the BAM system they use.
This is FAD's first IEM incorporating their own balanced armature driver designed and built in house.
IPod Classic 160gb (rockboxed) > Heaven II (small silicone tips)
These are the same design as the rest of the Heaven lineup, a small housing, this time made of stainless steel, a flat cable and L jack. The build quality is as good as it always is with the Heaven products, the cable is flat but has great strain relief and feels strong, and the housing is all metal.
Comfort, Isolation, Cable noise and Driver flex:
Comfort is good, these came with only a pair of M silicone tips, so I used some other tips from my collection, a small pair of translucent grey tips. With the right tips I can get a deep yet comfy fit. I used these with the cable over my ear, thus reducing any cable noise.
Isolation differs depending on insertion depth, I like these with a deep insertion, as the housing is slim it will allow for deep insertion. Like this they isolate a lot, and I can see they isolation well with foam tips too. Fine for public transport and fairly noisy locations.
Cable noise is present when worn cable down, you can use the chin slider to help reduce cable noise, or like me wear the cable over ear, like this there is little to no cable noise.
Driver flex is not present as balanced armature drivers don't suffer from this.
Split into the usual categories
Incorporating FAD's BAM system (interesting system that helps get more energy out of the lows of balanced armature drivers, Balanced Air Movement) these have surprisingly full bodied lows. The main difference from the higher up heaven series is the fullness in the lows, the Heaven VI had more powerful and defined lows, whereas these come over a slight bit lean, but have great detail and control, with speed being another of its strong points. They do have a bit more mid-bass punch than sub-bass rumble, but the extension is still very good for a BA driver. In songs like Angel by Massive Attack, you doent miss out on the pulsating bass line, it is always present, and the articulation and layering is superb. Definitely not for bass heads, but they have a fairly neutral amount of lows, excelling in detail, separation, body and speed.
What do you expect from a FAD IEM? Excellent mids of course, and these do not dissapoint. Ok, they may not be as full and lush as the Heaven VI but these cost about 1/5 of the price. The mids are still a fad forward in presentation, with great detail and separation again, but also come across a little dry. They don't quite have the sweet, lush, natural timbre of some of FADs other models. The mids don't suffer from any harshness or sibilance, and you can still tell these belong to the Heavn family. The mids dont come across as lush as some of the higher Heaven models, but do come across clean and clear, vocals both male and female are detailed, electric guitars still have power and crunch, acoustic guitars have great body and decay.
A little like the other Heaven series, the highs do lack a little sparkle and energy. They sort of sit back in the mix, just present enough to be heard, but not enough to become very engaging and exciting. The highs are subtle and detailed, never becoming splashy, just a shame they are a little too recessed for my tastes. Taps and crashes of cymbals are well portrayed but too far behind in the mix. This does mean that they don't sound bright, nor fatiguing, but do sound a little boring sometimes. Great for easy listening, not quite so good for critical listening when you need to hear every detail. But for this price I cannot complain.
Soundstage is wide, vocals are intimate and everything come in from around, very convincing stage and imaging. A strong point of the Heaven series.
Instrument separation is also very good, with quite an airy sound, everything is very well separated.
Imaging is very convincing and never sounds artificial.
Overall a great budget offering from Final Audio Design, these are priced around $130 and for that you get the same excellent build quality as the rest of the Heaven series, and just a little less in terms of SQ. These are not quite as refined or full sounding as the Heaven VI, but you can't have everything, and these are killer for the price. The lows are very articulate and almost dynamic like, the mids are slightly forward and detailed, the highs are slightly recessed but controlled. One of the best single armature budget offerings out there! That definitely compete with Shure's SE425 even, these sound superb with Diana Krall in Flac, now missing any body or part of the spectrum.
Its amazing what FAD squeeze out of single armature drivers, these are very sensitive and dont need amping to sound their best (it can help though).
Thanks for reading, comments welcome.
Skrillex – First Of The Year (Equinox) (320kbps MP3)
Paramore – Franklin (320kbps MP3)
Diana Krall – The Girl In The Other Room (FLAC)
Deolinda – Passou Por Mim E Sorriu (live) (ALAC)
Suicide Silence – Unanswered (FLAC)
Massive Attack – Angel (ALAC)
Eat Static – Dzhopa Dream (ALAC)
The XX – Crystalised (FLAC)
Funeral For A Friend – Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings (ALAC)
Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man (FLAC)
The Scene Aesthetic – Humans (259kbps MP3)
A Hero A Fake – Swallowed By The Sea (254kbps MP3)
Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, Spring Allegro (ALAC)
Johnny Craig – Children Of Divorce (161kbps MP3)
Deadmau5 + Kaskade – I Remember (Caspa Remix) (320kbps MP3)
Black Uhuru – Utterance (ALAC)
We Are The In Crowd – Never Be What You Want (226kbps MP3)
Silverstein – Discovering The Waterfront (320kbps MP3)
Concept Of Thought – Our Thought (FLAC)
Nirvana – Something In The Way (Unplugged) (ALAC)