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In-Ear item created by Loquah, Jul 17, 2014
Pros - Balanced natural SQ, clarity, stellar build quality, aesthetics (looks), accessories
Cons - Initial driver flex, fit can be tricky to get right, (update) - removable cable issues
For larger views of any of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images
The formula above in the title simply refers to Sound Quality + Build Quality + Perceived Value. Read on to find out why for me they became a must buy.
I’d read a little about the Fidue A83 on these forums, but really knew nothing about the company or their IEMs. And whilst I’d looked at a couple of the reviews, and was genuinely interested, at USD 320-399, and considering I already have a set of Dunu DN-1000 and Altone200 (both also triple hybrids), I was a little reluctant to take the plunge.
Then Vic (djvkool) contacted me and generously offered to send me his pair to trial and review them. Naturally I jumped at the chance. I’d like to thank djvcool, Loquah and !joker! for their superbly written reviews and impressions – as these are what captured my interest in the first place.
Fidue Acoustics is a Chinese earphone company founded by Benny Tan (who has more than 20 years design experience – developing earphones for other global branded companies). The name Fidue is simply an acronym of the principle design points that the company strives to implement in their product range
Fidue’s product catalogue to date has included mainly dynamic driver models ranging from the sub $50 bracket, all the way to their current flagship (the A83 which I’m reviewing today) at $320-399. The A83 is the first triple hybrid IEM released by Fidue.
In the last 4 weeks I have spent countless hours assessing the Fidue A83. In that time I have also listened to my Altone200 and DN-1000 so that I can reference differences, but the A83 has taken most of my listening time – and it has been a very pleasurable experience. With this earphone, I was “wowed” from day one – and that sense of enjoyment with the A83 has not diminished at all the longer I have had them.
I started with Vic’s loaner unit, but very quickly I arranged to purchase my own unit – and once it arrived I returned Vic’s A83 with grateful thanks. I’d estimate that so far I’ve logged around 100+ hours with the Fidue A83, split roughly evenly between Vic’s model and my own brand new one. I noticed no change between the well broken in model from Vic (it was used on an Australian tour), and my brand new A83.
I was initially provided the Fidue A83 as a loaner from dkvcool, and I have returned it after purchasing my own unit from Fidue. I am in no way affiliated with Fidue - and this review is my honest opinion of the A83.
PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)
I'm a 47 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portable (Fiio X5, and iPhone4) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP). I also use a portable set-up at work – either X5 > HP, or PC > Beyer A200p > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1 and Sennheiser HD600. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs (I do also have the Beyer T51p, but IEMs command most of my portable time) - and up till now it has mainly been with the Dunu DN-1000 and Altone200. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced. I am neither a bass nor treble head (you could argue that I do like clarity though). I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880.
For the purposes of this review - I used the Fidue A83 straight from the headphone-out socket of my Fiio X5, and iPhone 4, and also from the Beyer A200p when at work. I did not further amp them, as IMO they do not benefit from additional amplification. In the time I have spent with the Fidue A83, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (I do not believe in 'night and day' burn-in). I will respect others choice if they believe in physical burn-in, but I am yet to experience it.
This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
Fidue A83 Retail Packaging FrontFidue A83 Retail Packaging Rear
The Fidue A83 arrived in a very attractive green and black retail box which was probably a little larger than I would normally expect for an IEM. The outer retail carton has very good colouring though and is quite attractive – with my only criticism being that the gray on black text for the specifications (on the rear of the retail box) is a little hard to read.
End On - Foam Covering Over Pelican CasePelican Case Sandwiched Between the Foam
Sliding open the retail box reveals a white foam inner covering – which houses the accessories (more on them shortly). Removing those reveals that the foam is in fact two pieces and fits snugly over a clear pelican case containing the Fidue A83s. Once you see this, you realize the need for a little more size with the outer packaging, but also appreciate the extra care taken to make sure these IEMs are well looked after. You could drop a bowling ball on the outer case, and although the retail box may not fare too well – I guarantee the A83 would survive quite nicely.
Pelican CasePelican Case And Inner Enclosure
The pelican case opens to reveal a molded inner foam enclosure which snugly holds the A83 with the cable wound around a groove in the sides. If you’re storing the Fidue A83 in its inner case, they will be very well protected. For my personal day to day use though – I’ve been using one of the Brainwavz cases (slightly more pocket friendly).
Accessory PackageThe Fidue A83 - Gorgeous!
The accessory pack is generous and includes an airline adaptor, 3.5-6.3mm adaptor, 1 set of medium foam tips, 3 sets of single flange silicone tips, and two sets of dual flange silicone tips. There is also a QA card which has the warranty information written in Mandarin.
Fidue A83 AccessoriesFidue A83 Accessories
Hybrid Inner Ear Monitor
10mm Dynamic + dual Balanced Armature
9 – 31 Khz
Max Input Power
3.5mm gold plated
1.3m silver plated OFC copper, removable (MMXC connector)
Molded hard plastic with alloy faceplate
23g (A83 including cable)
The above frequency graph was supplied by Fidue – and my thanks to user jopok901 for initially posting it.
EDIT : Added graph from Veritas. Please note this is raw data with no compensation - but it is very similar to the same raw data shown on Innerfidelity. For those wondering, the dip at 4kHz doesn't translate as a cavernous hole in the frequency - and even now two years after first reviewing the A83, I still think it is a great sounding IEM.
The Fidue A83 has a molded shell designed to be worn with the cable over the ear, and the body of the A83 sitting inside the outer ear – similar to a Shure or Westone type design. When I’m wearing mine, the shell sits relatively flat against my concha with the nozzle protruding on an angle into the ear. As stated in the specifications, the shell is a molded plastic (right is red, left is blue) which is very smooth and seamless, with a very attractive metallic alloy faceplate. The A83 is approx. 21mm long and 15mm deep at its widest point. It is approx. 10mm from the faceplate to the base of the nozzle, and the nozzle itself extends approx. 7mm from base to tip. The nozzle has a generous lip, and tips are held very securely. There is a single port or vent adjacent to the base of each nozzle.
Fidue A83 ShellsFidue A83 Shells
The cable is connected to the A83 housing using MMXC type connectors. Fidue’s cable actually has an additional slot for added stability (it also stops it excessively rotating) – however this slot is not necessary to make a connection – so any compatible MMXC connecting cable should also fit.
MMXC ConnectorOuter Faceplate
The cable is (in my humble opinion) one of the best built cables I have ever seen, and a real thing of beauty! From the MMXC connectors, there is a 7 cm length of memory wire which is both soft and extremely pliable, yet still holds its shape. Above the Y split, the cable is a twisted pair encased in a soft yet durable clear sheath.
Update 19 Sept - I should have listed this a while ago - my original pair developed a connector fault about a month after posting the review (one ear piece had audio cutting out). I contacted Michael and arranged a replacement pair. Fidue's service was impeccable as always. Unfortunately the replacement pair developed virtually the same fault. It is the MMCX connector, and it seems to be a relatively common fault. I know Fidue has tried a few times to fix this over the last 12 months. I still use the A83 - but now with a Shure cable, and have had no issues since. I've modified the review score accordingly. Something to be aware of.
Memory WireTriple Braid Silver Plated Copper Cable
Below the Y split – the cable is encased in a grey sheath and beautifully braided until it reaches the 3.5mm plug. The Y split is minimal, stylish and has extremely good strain relief. The plug itself is straight, slim, and again is both stylish and has very good strain relief. The entire cable is extremely sturdy, quite flexible, and is not prone to tangling. Microphonics are minimal (worn correctly over ear) unless it comes into contact with textured (ribbed) clothing, or a zip – and then the contour of the cable can create quite a bit of noise against the contours of clothing. However – I had no issues with walking – having the A83 cable tucked inside my shirt – and I really doubt many people would be using these for strenuous exercise. They just aren’t ‘that sort of IEM”.
Y Split3.5mm Plug
The one missing thing is either a shirt clip, or neck cinch – however the need for this is minimized due to the build of the cable tending to hang naturally anyway.
Close Up Of The CableBeautiful Overall Finish Of The A83
Overall the build quality is very good - apart from potential cable connector issues.
FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION
I have one ear canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) - so I tend to find that usually single silicon flanges don't fit overly well. I initially tried the included large silicone tips, and whilst they fit OK, I was unable to maintain a seal. The dual flange tips were similar but for my ears, again could not maintain a seal, and weren’t as comfortable as I’d prefer. I tried their included foam tips, and they fit me well and were comfortable. I’ve also used the blue foam tips from my Altone200s – but lately have settled for Comply T400s which seal reasonably well for me and, are very comfortable.
The fit can be a little tricky at first until you find the right tips for your own ears – but with the T400s it takes no time at all for me to get a perfect seal every time.
A83 With Included Foam TipsA83 With Included Foam Tips
Isolation with the T400s fitted is average (nowhere near Shure’s almost perfect isolation – but quite effective), and they're not bad for long distance air travel (you still get engine noise, but it's drowned out by the music ). Because of their flat profile (when worn they do not extend past the ear), I have had no issues at all relaxing or sleeping with the Fidue A83. They would rank up there as one of the more comfortable IEMs I’ve worn – especially with the T400s.
There can be slight driver flex on initial insertion – but this is minimal. I experienced this with both Vic’s pair, and also my own.
So what does the Fidue A83 sound like, and why did I arrange to purchase my own pair within 48 hours of trying them for the first time ?
The following is what I hear from the Fidue A83. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my Fiio X5 as source.
Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.
Beautiful Match X5 + A83Beautiful Match X5 + A83
Thoughts on General Signature
If I was to describe the signature in one word – I’d chose the word “natural”.
I’m finding the Fidue A83 to be very balanced across the audio spectrum with nicely extended bass, a very slight mid-bass rise, full and rich lower and upper mids, and a slightly brighter than strictly neutral lower treble (but not excessive for my taste) - with good extension into the upper treble. This combination gives an extremely clear and articulate sound with very good bass slam that shows up when it’s needed, but remains firmly in the background when not required. I'm also finding a very natural true to life signature with good timbre, and in a lot of ways it reminds me of across between my HD600 and the DT880 I used to have (probably closer to the HD600 overall).
Overall Detail / Clarity
For this I always use both Steely Dan’s “Gaucho” and Dire Strait’s “Sultans of Swing” as there is a lot of micro detail in both tracks, and the recording quality for both is excellent.
The Fidue A83’s detail retrieval is excellent, and to me it sounds extremely similar to my HD600. With Gaucho, the sax intro is natural sounding and smooth. For me there is no hint of peakiness or glare. Cymbals in this track usually sit delicately behind the vocals and other instruments, and the A83 delivers perfectly. Everything sits exactly where it should be. What I love about listening to this track with the A83 (in contrast to my other more V shaped hybrids) is the balance and cohesion between both vocals and main instruments.
Switching to Sultans of Swing, and once more the overall balance of the A83 is just stunning. The bass is tight and fast – but not over-emphasized. Vocals are clear – but more importantly sound natural – and far better than the Altone200 delivers with male vocals. Knopfler’s guitar is allowed to contrast nicely with his vocals, and the overall coherency of the track is wonderful. Detail is all there – the subtle hits of snare and cymbal – and while it may not be as vivid as the Altone200’s more V shaped sound – the combination of raw detail and perfect tone (for my tastes) just resonates. Separation of every instrument is excellent, and there is no evidence of smearing on any track I’ve listened to so far.
Sound-stage & Imaging
For this I use Amber Rubarth’s binaural recording “Tundra”. I use this because it’s a pretty simple way to get comparative data on sound-stage.
It’s usually difficult to get a reasonable stage size from an inner ear monitor. The stage is often quite small / close – with an average impression of space. The Fidue A83 does give more of a sense of space than most typical IEMs, showing very good width with this track. Depth and height are just average though – but that’s OK as it is extremely difficult to achieve good depth with any IEM In my experience. It does sit on par with the overall staging of Dunu’s DN-1000 though. Directional cues are very good – so I have no problem overall with imaging.
I also used Loreena McKennitt’s “Dante’s Prayer” and the Fidue A83 gave an extremely captivating performance. Once again the tonality of this IEM is just incredibly natural – and whilst the sense of space is more intimate than spacious, it still delivers very good imaging within the intimate stage it sets. In this track, the applause at the end is so well presented that with some headphones (HD600) I can actually close my eyes and imagine myself in the crowd. With the Fidue A83, the applause does not quite take me into the audience – but this does not detract from the thorough enjoyment I got from the track overall.
With most triple hybrids I’ve heard, you generally expect a V shaped tuning with the dynamic delivering copious amounts of bass, and often a contrast with very clear upper mid-range emphasis for vocals and stringed instruments. The Fidue A83 shatters this mold by displaying a really balanced overall frequency response. The bass is definitely there, and can hit hard when called for – but it’s balanced with the rest of the track, generally well defined, and more importantly conveys a natural mix of speed, definition, power and timbre. The best part of it, is that there is no bleed, and the slightly less emphasis (to its other triple hybrid cousins) has allowed Fidue to tune a balance into the lower mids which conveys realism (especially with male vocals).
Listening to Zoe Keating’s “Escape Artist” (Zoe plays Cello – and has a Bandcamp site – definitely worth looking her up!), and the cello’s depth and timbre is rendered incredibly beautifully with life-like decay. It’s very easy to get lost in the music with this sort of realism.
Switching to something with bigger sub-bass impact like Lorde’s “Royals” or Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” and the impact goes up markedly – but this is precisely what it should be doing as it’s the way both tracks were recorded.
Change to Seether’s version of “Immortality” and the impact of both drums and bass guitar slides back a notch – still there but leaving vocals, guitars and other instruments to shine. The key here is balance – and the Fidue A83 just keeps delivering – exactly what the track contains – no more, no less.
Female Vocals – A Special Note
I had to add this section simply because around 60-65% of my music revolves around female vocals – be it jazz, pop, rock, electronic, or even opera. I’m an unabashed fan. For me the most captivating thing about the Altone200 I reviewed previously was how it rendered female vocals. Other IEMs I’ve owned in the past had sometimes struggled with some of the artists I like – and this includes IEM’s like Shure’s SE535 LE (upper-mids on the SE535 LE are quite forward). The Altone200 just nailed everything though – often bringing an almost euphoric quality to the overall presentation.
With its superior balance I was concerned that the A83 might lose a little of that euphoria with female vocals – and to be fair, it did a little. But what it brought to the table instead was a greater sense of realism. Artists like Agnes Obel had no signs of the shoutiness which can sometimes appear with other IEMs and the contrast between vocals and instruments (the cello contrasting with Agnes voice for example) brought its own magic. I then proceeded to play a medley of different tracks from artists including Christina Perri, Gabriella Cilmi, Norah Jones, and even Dolores O’Riordan – and each time I was stunned by what I was hearing. The presentation is definitely different than the Altones – and there will be times when I’ll prefer their special colour. But if I had a choice of only one IEM to listen to all of my female artists from this point on, I’d be going with the Fidue A83. For my preferences – the natural presentation trumps the coloured one.
Genre Specific Notes
Again for tracks, albums, artists – please refer to this list: http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks
Rock – The Fidue A83 nail this genre for me – and although on some tracks the bass is not as strong as either the DN-1000 or Altone200, it’s there when called for, and it’s the overall cohesion of many of the tracks I tried which has won me over. 3 Doors Down “Away From the Sun”, and Alter Bridge’s “Broken Wings” are both captivating – more so because the Fidue accurately portrays the timbre of the vocals – especially Miles Kennedy’s special timbre. If anything they may be slightly brighter than strictly natural – but it’s only slight – and for my preferences it still sounds perfect. I’m not getting any signs of fatigue. Switching to the much faster paced “Diary of Jayne”, and the drivers are keeping up quite nicely without the confused “wall of sound” presentation you sometimes get with less capable drivers.
Alt Rock – First up (in my usual test rotation) was Pink Floyd’s “Money”, and The A83 once gain delivers nicely. Everything in the track appears to be presented – although I’m noticing some of the more accentuated detail of cymbals and bells portrayed by the Altone200 or DN1000 sit a little further back with the A83. Everything is still very clear though, and the Fidue A83 is easily handling the complex changes of contrast. Switching to Porcupine Tree’s “Trains”, and once again – perfection for my tastes. Before I’d noticed it, I’d listened to half the album, and had to try and remember that I was supposed to be writing a review. The bass line for Trains is rendered extremely well – definition and contrast of the dynamic bass with the smooth and flowing vocals is just so enjoyable.
Jazz / Blues / Bluegrass – Portico Quartet’s “Ruins” is always a first stop for me when testing a new IEM with Jazz, and the A83 impresses once again. The sax is smooth and soulful, cymbals crisp and engaging, percussion tight and snappy, and the double bass deep and textured. Once again everything gels – and once again I’m on off on a sidetrack to load another song from the album (the song “sleepless”) because I just have to find out how the A83 handles Cornelia’s vocals (the track is sublime by the way). I need to tear myself away though and get back to the review – so time to queue up Mr Davis. The track is “So What” from the album Kind of Blue, and once again I’m stuck by how much the A83 sounds like the HD600 – and it really does just have a stunningly good tonality with everything I’m listening to. Again the A83 is crystal clear, and has the ability to showcase the overall contrast (double bass, brass, cymbals and percussion), whilst remaining coherent, smooth and utterly entrancing.
Next up was Blues – so I alternated between Joe Bonamassa’s India-Mountain Time, and Mark Lanegan’s “Bleeding Muddy Water”. Two contrasting tracks – both fantastic with the A83. Joe’s guitar work and vocals are portrayed brilliantly with plenty of crunch and liveliness. And when switching to Mark’s brooding bassy blues-rock, the texture of his voice with the thump of the bass line – magic. Reminder to self – I need to go back to both albums and listen to them in their entirety!
Rap / EDM / Pop – Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” is stunning with Fidue A83s – and one of the biggest differences with the Altone200 is that although the Altone has more sub bass, the A83’s do better with Marshall’s vocals. Time for a little Florence and the Machine, so onto “Howl” – and although here both the Altone2100 and DN1000 might portray this track more vividly – the A83 still handles the track very well, and I think I prefer Florence’s vocals with the A83 as they are simply more realistic. On to some EDM – and Lindsay Stirling’s “Electric Daisy Violin” definitely thumps – but what impresses me more is the projection of the violin – perfectly clear, smooth, and haunting. Little Dragon’s “Little Man” was equally as impressive, but it was with The Flashbulb that I was once again lost – and dangerously close to losing another few hours just listening to my music again (review forgotten). The tonality, the contrast, the depth of sound – all truly sublime.
Classical / Opera – By now I’m already accepting that the Fidue A83 are genre masters, so I was expecting more of the same with my classical and operatic albums. Kempff’s Moonlight Sonata was as captivating as always, but it was with the multi instrumental pieces (Netrebko and Garanca portrayal of Lakme’s Flower Duet, and Julia Fischer’s rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Violoin Concerto in D) where once again the magic, the pure captivation of the Fidue A83 shone yet again. In particular the performance of Netrebko and Garanca was enchanting – and this particular piece still gives me goose-bumps when I listen to it.
The Fidue A83 is easily powered straight out of the portable devices I have, and I haven’t experience any issues with the 2 DAPs I’ve tested (iPhone 4, or Fiio X5), nor from my A200p (at work). With typical pop/rock songs on the X5 I’m usually at a volume level of 25-30 (so less than 25%) and that’s on low gain. So far I’ve had no issues with hiss on the X5 or iPhone4.
RESPONSE TO EQ?
So far I haven’t used EQ – at all – with the A83. For me, they don’t need it – they are already beautifully natural in tone. But for the sake of the exercise I loaded Accudio Pro on my iPhone, set the preset for HD600, listened, then applied an AKG701 filter over the top, and repeated the process switching instead to an LCD-2 filter. In both cases, the A83 responded well to the EQ (no noticeable clipping or distortion), but for my personal taste it was a case of applying a colouration to an IEM that simply needs no additional colouration.
QUICK COMPARISON OTHER HYBRID IEMs – Fidue A83 vs T-Peos Altone200 and DN-1000
For this exercise I’ll try and give you a rough general comparison with two other Hybrid IEMs which I have on hand, and which range in value from around USD 150 – 200 (the Fidue A83 is considerably more expensive). Rather than referencing particular tracks – I’m trying to make this general. I’ve volume matched as closely as possible when performing the comparisons (using test tones and an SPL meter) – but it is relatively difficult to do this without a perfect set-up, and I fear that the results may not be entirely accurate. So as always – take the following with a large grain of salt. Remember these are my preferences only.
The Fidue A83 has a more balanced frequency response overall. The Altone200 is more V shaped with deeper sub-bass and more emphasis on upper mid-range and lower treble, so appears slightly hotter/brighter, and maybe has slightly more perceived clarity. The Altone can shine particularly with female vocals, giving them an almost euphoric colouration at time – but this is at a cost to slightly less lower mid-range emphasis which can detract from male vocals. The Fidue A83 handles all vocals beautifully, being both more neutral and more natural sounding – with a fuller and more cohesive mid-range overall.
Vs Dunu DN-1000
This one is really interesting as both are a little more balanced through the mid-range, but again where the DN-1000 has a pronounced V shape, the Fidue A83 is more balanced, and overall more cohesive. The DN-1000 has a slightly hotter lower treble and a little more stridency – where the Fidue A83 is definitely smoother.
FIDUE A83 - SUMMARY
This review has taken me longer to write than any other review I’ve written (almost 4 weeks) – and the reason for this is testament to how well I regard the Fidue A83. I’ve often sat down to start writing something and simply become lost in the music along the way – review forgotten.
Before getting the chance to listen to the A83, I had been perfectly happy switching between my DN-1000 and Altone200. They are both fantastic IEMs, representing wonderful value and great sonics – and were the reason I’d become a “hybrid IEM junkie”. But I fell in love with the Fidue A83’s presentation from virtually day one – and despite the steeper price, I ordered my own pair within 48 hours of trying them. If I was forced to only have one pair of IEMs – the Fidue A833 would now be “my keepers”.
The Fidue A83 is an exquisitely built and stylish IEM with a beautifully balanced and naturally coherent sound signature. It has excellent bass speed, texture, definition and impact. The mid-range is full – both upper and lower-mids – and once again shows marvelous tonality and timbre. The treble has very good extension and clarity. I personally find it quite smooth – but acknowledge that it is brighter than many would consider being completely flat. The A83 has less treble than either the DN-1000 or Altone200.
IMO the Fidue A83 sounds tonally very similar to my HD600 – and that alone for me makes it an incredible sounding earphone. Due to its size, and shape, the fit for me is extremely comfortable.
My litmus question is always “would I buy these for myself”, and “would I recommend them to my family”. The answer to this question is glaringly obvious – because I have bought a pair and have no regrets. I’ve even gone as far on the forums as suggesting that the A83 may be end game for me as far as IEM’s go. Over the last 4 weeks they have frequently immersed me in the music so much that I have literally forgotten what I originally set out to achieve. And they do this with no listening fatigue (YMMV).
I’ve given these IEMs a rating of 4 stars, and sonically they deserve this (I’d rate them higher if I could - but the cable issue isn't one to be overlooked). I’ve listed purchase price at USD 300.00 (I paid a little less than this – but I cannot disclose the amount – it was a bargain, but not significantly less). The lowest I’ve seen them so far has been around the $270 mark (promotions). Even at $350-399 to me they would still be worth it, and I would have purchased at the higher price.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO FIDUE
Fix the cable, and maybe add a chin slider. But don’t change the sonics. These are perfect.
And thank you for the privilege of being able to own these excellent earphones.
Pros - Clear, neutral, tight bass, accurate mids & highs, sensitive to source, superb cable and box, nice metal face plate
Cons - Fit and sound is highly dependent on tips, may detect noise if source in not clean
After burn in of ~ 100hr, correct tips, and placement of iem, they sound great and the most neutral hybrids I have tried.
The is very detailed, so detailed that if the source/player is sub-par, it will detect base noise.
The best "kit" cable ever seen in a pair of IEM at this price range.
Pros - Cable, bass, treble, build quality
Cons - Sensitivity to bad recordings, could be tricky to get perfect seal for people with large/deep canal
First of all, a big THANK YOU to Michael Lin from FIDUE for providing the review unit. It is much appreciated, and my humble ears are feeling so incredibly honoured to be included as one of the reviewers
This is the first triple hybrid IEM from Fidue, and it is being offered as one of the top offering from Fidue, alongside its single dynamic A81.
Driver: 10mm Exclusive Dynamic & Dual-Balanced Armature Drivers
Frequency Range: 9-31,000 Hz
Max Input Power: 30mW
Plug: 3.5mm stereo, gold-plated (MP3, iPod, iPhone & iPad Supported)
Cable: 1.3 m
Hybrid IEM has taken the music world by storm lately, with more than half of vendor have an offering or two, so when I was given the opportunity to audition and review A83, I gladly accepted the offer with open hands.
With many excellent offering lately from different manufacturers, A83 does have a lot of competition, and being priced across the top end of the market, there is no doubt that people will have somewhat big expectations. How will it perform, and will it satisfy the enthusiast and audiophiles? How does it compare to some of the competitors in the market?
The components that I used for this review are as follows
iPod Classic (straight, and through C&C BH)
Fiio X5 DAP
Desktop (through Aune T1)
MacBook Air (straight out, and through Dragonfly)
Spotify (highest quality streaming), 320k MP3’s, 16/44 and 24/96 FLAC’s
Packaging and accessories
The packaging of A83 is standard retail packaging, carton outer and hard foam liner inside, with black and green being the prominent two colours.
Tips wise, there are single-flange silicones (S/M/L), dual-flange silicone (S/L), and a pair of foam. Also, there are also an airline adapter, and a 6.3mm adapter.
The case is very good, it is an otterbox drybox 1000 style case, as well as a hard foam winder and the earpiece placer, cut and measured to perfection for the case. This way, your investment is superbly protected to avoid it to move inside and hitting the case.
Build Quaility, Isolation, and Comfort
The body is ergonomic type, similar build to universal CIEM, though not as thick nor solid, but feels strong and can take some rough treatments. Right and left are easily distinguishable by the red and blue shell colour. The overall finish is top class with gold-coloured layered fascia with a white logo. It’s very unique and it you can spot it and know what it is if you see someone else is using them.
The cable is detachable and using the MMCX connector, and a rather long yet soft and flexible memory wire. The quality of the silver-plater copper cable itself is, well, absolutely superb, hands down, the best standard cable of any universal IEM and CIEM that I have ever encountered, full stop. It’s dual-braided and solid, yet it is soft and flexible enough and tangle-free, and it is pretty much unbreakable (unless if you try to do it using tools such as scissor or pliers of course)
Comfort relies heavily on the tip that you are using, and to some extend it can depends on the size and depth of your canal, for those whose canal is deeper and bigger, you have to use a large-sized tips, or longer tips, as due to the wide body, you won’t be able to push this too deep. Isolation is not too bad, and again, depends on your ear size and the tips that you are using. For me personally, this doesn’t isolate as well as the barrel-type body IEM
A quick note here before we go on to the sound, historically I like using large-bore tips whenever possible, mainly because of the bigger soundstage, and enhanced bass effect to some extent. The same applies here, for the purpose of this review, I am using UE TF10’s large silicone, as that is the only silicone from my collection that gives me good seal, as mentioned above I have a rather large and deep canal that requires me to use a large and long silicone tips with this kind of body. Comply foam tips works too, but I feel that using Comply takes away little bit of clarity/sparkle from the sound
The general sound signature is slightly bright, balanced, and detailed, very very close to neutral. This in fact is the most balanced, most neutral, and least coloured hybrid that I ever heard/auditioned
The most important thing here is to get a seal that is as close to perfect as possible, I have tried combinations of tips with different bore size and length, each one gave me some different sound
The bass is warm, thick, well textured and controlled, and has excellent timbre. Impact wise it is slightly north of neutral, although nowhere near H-300 nor DNk. If 5 is neutral and 10 is extreme basshead, I would say A83 is at around 6. It hits around about the same impact than DN2k (though does not go as deep), however, it certainly shows up when called upon, after listening to a few pop, country, and jazz tracks, I switched to EDM, thinking that this will be quite boring, but it does the opposite, actually surprised me to hear how present the bass is, even though supposedly it’s not boosted.
In terms of the bass’ speed, tightness, and accuracy, it is up there with the best of the BA’s bass, it is very impressive for a dynamic bass to have such an excellent speed, tightness, and accuracy. Compared to the other mid-tier hybrid universals, it has the quickest and most accurate bass, perfect for rock/alternative music and the likes. I am listening to A Perfect Circle right now, and the way the bass drum hits and keeps up with the music is just breathtaking. Another good track to showcase this is Sia’s Chandeliers, and Meghan Trainor’s All About Bass.
Going back to the earlier discussion about tips, using the large-bore silicone tips does enhanced the bass by a bit. I do get the same bass effect with Comply TS (with a similar sized bore), albeit
with a smaller bass-stage.
The midrange is detailed, smooth, and rather sensitive (to bad recordings). The sensitivity here is so much that it can be quite revealing to bad recording. It can also lead to some sibilance and peaks. A good example here is Katy Pery’s Roar, listening through Spotify, sibilance and peaks are quite prominent, but switching over to FLAC, it renders Katy’s vocal superbly with just very slight peaks at the top of her voice.
Male vocal sounds better than the female’s with A83, which is mainly due to the slight peaks in the upper region of the midrange, although the level of the peaks is nowhere near other hybrids such as H-300 and Altone200. It can be ignored, except maybe by some people who are incredibly sensitive to peaks.
Presentation wise, the midrange is neither forward nor recessed, and it is in fact quite addictive given that it is fed with some quality recording
The treble is slightly north of neutral, has excellent extension, and slightly forward in presentation. It can be perceived as bright by people who are sensitive to treble, however, it is very well controlled, and non-fatiguing. I can easily listen to this for hours without having to take it off for a ‘break’.
Just like the midrange, the treble is also quite revealing in bad recordings, not particularly in the cymbal/bell sound but more so with the ‘s’ and ‘ch’, especially in female vocals.
Feed it quality recordings and the treble shines superbly, as good as winter morning sunshine. In tracks such as Destiny Child’s Bills Bills Bills 16/44 FLAC, all the bells and cymbals are rendered almost to perfection, without anything being sibilant
Presentation and Amping
Soundstage is pretty wide, although depth is average. It is not as expansive as say DNk, H-300, or Altone200
Transparency and separation are excellent, listening to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Cowboy Boots is such a joy, instruments and vocals never seems to be congested and sounds out of place (this track can sounds very congested with a badly tuned IEM – you won’t be able to make out the lyrics when everything is going on at the same time)
Imaging is rather good, though it is not as wide nor as satisfying as A200 or H-300
A83 benefits with amping, especially in the bass department. By having a little bit more power pumped through its drivers, it certainly benefits the bass as it adds to the fullness and richness of the bass.
COMPARISON TO OTHER HYBRIDS
T-PEOS Altone200 (Triple Hybrid)
Straight off the bat, compared to the v-shaped A200, the A83 sounds very warm and mid-forward.
Let’s start with the bass, in my mind, there is no competition here. A200’s bass hits harder, deeper, and sounds richer and fuller overall, though speed and accuracy wise, it lacks behind A83. A200’s bass also sounds a bit muddy next to A83’s.
Moving on to the midrange, although A200’s mids sounds veiled and recessed, compared to A83’s, it does have better clarity overall. For vocal tracks, A83 definitely sounds better than A200, as I prefer the smoother and warmer rendering of vocals from the A83, compared to the veiled, and sometime harsh A200’s.
Treble wise, first thing I notice is that A83’s treble sounds quite warm next to the very bright, very sparkly A200’s treble. Due to the brightness and sparkle, A200 can get quite fatiguing after a while, so for a long session/travelling, I prefer to use A83 as its brightness is completely non-fatiguing.
Dunu DN-2000 (Triple Hybrid)
This is probably my recent favourite amongst all the mid-tier triple-hybrid universals; general signature is rather similar, though not completely the same. Also, just like A83, DN2k’s sound also depends on the bore size of the tips you use. For the purpose of this comparison, I am using exactly the same tips (TF10’s large silicone)
Bass wise they both have similar impact, although in my opinion, A83’s bass sounds slightly thicker and fuller compared to the Dunu. In terms of extension and sub-bass, DN2k has bigger sub bass and slightly longer decay. Speed and accuracy, A83’s is quicker/tighter, and more accurate.
Midrange wise, DN2k’s is slightly forward, thinner, and has slightly better clarity. It is also much more forgiving compared to A83’s. In terms of preference, I am torn in the middle here, I prefer A83 for male vocals, and DN2k for female vocals.
Treble wise, in terms of brightness and sparkle, they are really alike. DN2k can be perceived to have a cleaner and smoother treble than the A83, but this is mainly due to the more unforgiving nature of A83. Give them both quality recordings however, they are as awesome as each other.
Last but not least, DN2k fits more snug and gives me better isolation with its barrel type body. Comfort wise, A83 is more comfortable for a longer session due to its ergonomic type body.
Audiofly AF140 (Triple Hybrid)
Another one of the similarly priced competitor within the mid-tier hybrid universals, and just like A83, AF140 is built with the ergonomic type body (similar to the shape of FA DBA-02 Mk2). To my ear however, A83 is much more comfortable to be worn for prolonged use.
Let’s start with the bass, AF140 has bigger impact, slightly better extension, and sounds a little bit richer compared to A83. However, unlike A83’s zero bass bleed, A140 does have some mid-bass bleed into the lower midrange. Bass speed is rather similar, however, to my ear; A83’s bass is slightly better textured.
Midrange and treble wise, next to the balanced A83, A140’s midrange sounds warmer, as well as muddy and veiled. The treble also sounds quite recessed compared to the brighter and more energetic AF140.
It is very nice and refreshing to see a triple-hybrid IEM tuned differently to the more generic v-shaped sound like most of the current hybrids. As we all know, the majority of the current mid-tier hybrid universals are tuned with v-shaped signature (except maybe DN2k).
Some people might call this boring, but I call this refreshing. It is not as energetic as Altone200 or H-300 for example, but I personally prefer A83, especially for longer listening session and to take with you when you are travelling, as it is comfortable and non-fatiguing. In fact, amongst all the mid-tier universal hybrid in the market at the moment, A83 is one of my favourite, alongside Dunu DN-2000.
Priced at AUD$399/USD$350, it certainly sits at the top end of the mid-tier universal IEM’s, given the uniqueness of the sound, I do think the price is spot on, fully reflect the value and the ability of this unit, and not to mention, there are no hybrid universal in the market at the moment that are tuned towards natural.
Well done Fidue
Pros - Balanced sound without sacrificing bass, beautiful looks, detailed and revealing, great accessories, awesome cord!
Cons - Unusual fit took a little while to get used to
At $399 (AUD) the A83 is at the upper end of the mid-priced IEM range as there tends to be a leap up to the near-$1000 range once you crest the $500 mark. For this price I was expecting big things and I am convinced that they justify their price tag.
Drivers: 1 x 10mm dynamic + 2 x balanced armatures (BAs)
Frequency range: 9 – 31,000 Hz
Impedance: 11 ohms
Cable: Detachable 1.3m silver-plated copper cable with MMCX connectors (same connector as Shure, Audiofly and a few other manufacturers)
Max input power: 30mW
Design & Comfort
The A83s initially caught my attention for 2 reasons – the fact that they might have been the hybrid that finally got it right and their design. These are one of the most unique looking IEMs you can buy. They have transparent coloured inner shells in blue and red for left and right respectively. These inner shells are married to beautifully sculpted metal outer shells with a striking, finned design like nothing I’ve ever seen in an IEM. I’m not sure what metal they’ve used either because it’s a subtle gold colour, but it’s subtle, not that cheesy gold colour you sometimes see on products seeking the “bling” factor. No, to me these aren’t bling – these are classy, but striking.
Inside the retail packaging of the A83s you receive a nice set of tips, an airplane adapter (single 3.5mm to twin 3.5mm) and a 3.5 to 6.3mm adapter and a clear pelican case with a FIDUE label and a sneak peek to the goodies inside. I loved seeing the gold shell of the right earpiece peeking through at me when I first unpacked the box – it’s a nice touch and continues to bring a subtle pleasure each time I see that hint of gold through the clear case.
Sometimes I discuss cables, sometimes I don’t. This cable though… this cable has to be discussed because it’s perfect!
The cable is a greenish-grey fabric covered, silver-plated copper cable in a tight braid emerging from a beautiful custom, metal, slimline 3.5mm jack. There’s a nice, metal cuff at the split and the lengths from the cuff to the earpieces are twisted and wrapped in soft heatshrink to protect them and keep them in a tight twist I assume. Finally, the cable ends in MMCX connectors with a small locking tab to prevent them from spinning in the earpiece like the Shures do. I personally have no issues with the “Shure spin”, but others do so this will be welcome to some and has no drawbacks that I can see so it’s a good feature.
The cable is soft, just the right length (1.3m) and no more microphonic than any other IEM cable I’ve tried and far better than many. In other words, in my experience all IEMs produce some degree of microphonics if you try hard enough. The A83 cable is as good as it gets in my experience.
Fit & Comfort
The shape of the A83s may have you believing (like I did) that they will nest neatly in your ears like Shure and Westone offerings. Don’t be so sure…
The angle and position of the nozzle means that these sit out a little at the front, just above the ear lobe. It’s not uncomfortable in any way, but it’s not quite as streamlined as I expected when I first saw the A83s. The good news is that the back portion of the A83 is perfectly curved and nice and shallow so they do nestle in the hollow of your ear quite nicely and are comfortable for long sessions in that regard.
The other challenge I faced with the A83s is the angle of the nozzle. For many people the following points will be of no concern, but I have relatively small ear canals that bend quite sharply close to the opening. The A83s have a similar nozzle size to the RE-272s which I find extremely comfortable, but the nozzle is a tiny bit longer and angled slightly forward and up. This tiny change made getting the right fit extremely challenging for me at first. I tried lots and lots of different tips and even bought some Comply foam tips (which were a complete disaster when combined with the A83s’ design and my bendy ear canals). In the end, I have found a silicone tip (which may have been one of the FIDUE ones, I’m not sure) that provides a perfect seal and good comfort. Interestingly, once I got used to the slightly different, quite shallow insertion, I’ve found these to be a welcome change because the nozzle and tip seal quite close to the outside of the ear canal rather than forcing their way inside my head.
The moral of this story is that the A83s may not fit quite how you expect so please work with them and don’t expect them to necessarily be the same type of insertion as your other IEMs. They are not actually difficult to fit – just different. Once I found the right tip and angle of insertion I could get a good and comfortable seal quickly and easily every time.
The FIDUE A83 is a beautiful example of natural, balanced, enjoyable sound. It’s not analytical and cold like some IEMs seeking detail at all costs. It’s also not bloomy and boomy like some IEMs seeking the “wow” factor of prodigious bass. No, the A83 delivers every frequency equally with just a slight treble tilt, but it’s slight. This isn’t another sizzling hybrid. This is a tamed, controlled hybrid delivering the detail and control of a full-BA setup and the bass warmth (not quantity) and control of a pure dynamic setup.
For most of us, the term hybrid means bass-oriented or V-shaped earphone. Certainly, the A83 shows all the capabilities you expect from the possession of a dynamic driver, but it does it with subtlety and control. The T-PEOS H-300 showed me what dynamic bass could be like when it wasn’t overdone, but was present, well controlled and beautifully detailed. The A83 shows very similar characteristics with slightly less bass prominence (from my memory of the H-300), but equal agility and detail from the bass registers.
The bass is present, firm and warm, but tight and controlled with absolutely no bloat or bleeding into the mids. There’s nice bass energy, but if you’re expecting an earphone like the other hybrids on the market you’re going to be disappointed – that’s not what the A83 is about.
I recently reviewed the Noble PR which is an analytical IEM designed for detail and clarity. My one issue with that earphone was its lack of bass which left larger instruments like cellos sounding a bit hollow and lifeless. I used a 2Cellos track to test that so I decided to do the same with the A83s. The results were much more satisfactory in terms of realism in the cellos. Plucking and strumming of the cello strings had body and warmth, but no bloom. The sound was tight and punchy, but full and realistic.
That’s not to say the A83 is an all-around better earphone than the Noble PR – they are quite different, but they share a sense of accuracy and neutrality so it was a parallel worth making and the A83 brings extra firepower with its dynamic driver and perfect bass tuning.
Unlike many of the A83′s competitors, vocals and midrange instruments are present and accounted for with the A83s. There’s a slight dryness to female vocals, but nothing that detracts from enjoyment – it’s just a character of the sound and possibly exposes some of the vocal textures that are sometimes smoothed over. Either way, it’s not good or bad – it just is.
To my ears, the A83 probably has a slight dip in the lower mids which create that slight dryness, but also keeps the sound clean and crisp. Male vocals have less sense of the dryness because they live a little lower in the frequency range. Other midrange instruments like guitars and horns receive a beautiful sense of agility and texture from the A83′s tuning. I wouldn’t say the sound is coloured, but that the A83s have a noticeable character similar to the subtle differences from one instrument to the next. The sound is still very, very accurate so don’t be worried that the A83s will mess with your enjoyment of your favourite music. Regardless of the genre I’ve tried, the A83s have stayed pure, realistic and accurate – just right.
While writing this review, I actually heard some distortion in the vocals of some tracks I know very well and thought were very well recorded. The distortion sounds like the recording levels were just a touch too hot during the peaks in the vocals and the result is subtle, but noticeable with the A83s. I have never heard the problem before though so this is a sign of how revealing and detailed the A83s can be. The reason I haven’t put this front and centre though is that the A83s don’t shove detail in your face – they aren’t detail-mongers, they’re just accurate and revealing IEMs which, to me, is far more fun and far less fatiguing.
I really dislike hot, sibilant earphones, but as I approach the 90 minute mark of this review, having listened to the A83s throughout at normal listening levels (estimated at 75-80dB), I can honestly say that I haven’t once reached to turn down the music, switch tracks, or otherwise reacted to splashy, rowdy treble.
Yes, the A83 presents a tiny treble tilt, but like its control of bass, its control of treble is equally poised and graceful. This is one of the few IEMs I have tried where I find myself actively enjoying the treble and that puts the A83 in some good company with the Noble PR and Shure SE846.
A fellow Head-Fi’er recently posted a frequency response chart of the A83s on the discussion thread which might explain the A83′s treble voodoo. According to that chart, the A83s have a small treble peak at around 2-3kHz (hence the enjoyably dry vocals and agile strings) before dropping away around 4kHz and then peaking again around 8kHz.
Our ears are most sensitive to the 4kHz frequency range because it’s where a lot of the detail in speech occurs in the form of consonants (t, s, p, th, f, etc.) There’s no need for this area to be boosted in audio gear and it often results in sibilance from vocals because all of those consonants suddenly get over-cooked. If indeed that chart is accurate then Mr Benny Tan, the mastermind behind the tuning of the A83s, is a genius because he’s simultaneously created beautifully detailed and slightly prominent treble while deftly side-stepping the common issues with this approach – namely sibilance. Perhaps Mr Tan and Dr Moulton (“The Wizard” behind the Noble PRs) have been comparing notes because they have both nailed the perfect treble presentation that’s a joy to listen to without becoming fatigued (in fact I just turned my music up a notch).
Imaging and Staging
The imaging and staging from the A83s isn’t something I’m drawn to rave about, but it’s very good and easily on par with anything else I’ve heard in the price range. There’s not a great deal of depth to the soundstage (forwards / backwards), but it extends really well from side-to-side to the point that some sounds seem to come from slightly beyond the extremities of the earphones themselves. What’s good about the staging is that it is coherent, accurate and realistic. There are no phantom sounds appearing outside the stage all by themselves and there are no glaring gaps or irregularities in the shape of the stage. Playing my favourite staging track (Dancing Flute & Drum) from the Chesky Sensational Binaural Album (not its full title) shows an accurate sense of space, but not a huge sense of space.
Imaging from the A83s is equally as competent, but also not mind-blowing. That said, there are very few truly mind-blowing IEMs out there when it comes to staging and imaging and the A83s sit very comfortably in the tier directly below the mind-blowing tier. To let you in on my little rating scale of imaging, there’s:
So the A83s receive a score of “Nice!” There’s a good sense of each instrument’s position and enough space between them to be believable, but I didn’t find myself wanting to reach out and touch a vocalist or an instrument like I have on one or two very special occasions with IEMs. For the $399 price tag, the imaging is easily as good or better than you’d expect and you’d have to spend a significant amount more to achieve better performance in this area.
Recognise what the A83s are – a detailed, accurate, neutral IEM with a tiny treble boost and perhaps a slight touch of warmth in the bass, although that’s debatable given that our impressions of what is “natural” all vary. To me, the A83s are dead accurate with a touch of treble and I love that about them. To my ears the bass brings realism and life to the music without becoming a prominent feature. They have bass that can hit like a subwoofer when it’s in the track, but completely retreat when not required.
The A83s seem slightly eccentric to me. They sound different to their peers. They look like they should nestle completely into your ears, but actually stick out ever-so-slightly and don’t insert as deep as you might expect. They are vibrant and colourful on the inside, but subtle and classy on the outside. And they can slap you around with bass in one moment before dancing through delicate passages like a ballerina the next. They are warm in one moment and bright in the next, but they’re not confused – they just know what the music is saying.
Know going into any introduction to the A83s that they are eccentric, but revel in that eccentricity because they are like a wonderful eccentric friend who you might not “get” at first, but as time passes and you get to really know them you are treated to one surprise and delight after another. The A83s have certainly become a friend of mine who’ll be sticking around for a long time. I hope you’ll find the same experiences if these sound like a good fit for your tastes!
Loquah, Jul 17, 2014
K.T., koalkoal, Audiophile1811 and 7 others like this.
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