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In-Ear item created by bowei006, Feb 22, 2014
Pros - Neutral, balanced, wholesome, amazingly close to full sized cans of similar traits
Cons - Build doesn't inspire confidence, doesn't look like a $300 pair of earphones, proper amping is necessary to extract full potential
When my 2 year old DBA02 mkii's lost left channel signal strength, I needed a replacement, pronto. I took note of some good sounding < IEMs from |joker|'s list and headed off to the nearest headphone store - to tide me over till I went custom, so the idea went. (I totally agree with |joker|'s 9.2 assessment of SQ on the DBA 02 mkii, fyi)
As it turned out, they had none of the phones on my list but they did have something new - the TBA 04 - that had only just come in for a few months. I'd brought along my DBA 02s to A/B the TBA 04s with, which I auditioned on an iFi iDSD nano AMP/iDevice DAC, with ALACs from my iPhone.
On first listen, the TBA 04s were quite similar in sound signature to the already excellent DBA 02s - accurate articulation, palpable soundstage (for IEMs) and balanced sound. But where the DBA 02s could get a little thin, the TBA 04s were full and flawless. Where I sometimes wished for a little bit more bass in the DBA 02s, the TBA 04s never left any doubts. This is something that I'd attribute to the TBA 04's 3 balanced armature drivers compared to the 2 in DBA02 mkii.
2 weeks later, with some solid use, my first impressions stand - with more observations:
- On high intensity orchestral tracks, the TBA 04s are remarkably close to full-sized cans for fullness and power and handle them with aplomb
- Carmina Burana: O Fortuna and Carmen Suite No.1: Les Toreadors are good examples
- These phones are good with resolving minute details and yet keeping the treble in line
- There are no weak genres on the TBA 04 - though that may just be my preference for transparent/uncolored sound
- Instrument separation in the soundstage is superior in the TBA 04, compared to the DBA 02 mkii
- They still sound pretty decent unamped, running straight out of an iPhone 5 - just without the extra control, presence and resolution that you get with a separate dac/amp. It also means that they're very easy to drive
- I miss the solid cable from the DBA 02
Should you buy it? Well if you're into transparent sounding hifi, it is a resounding yes.
I'm writing this now because having had my LCD 2 cables chewed out by my cat (he's more dog than cat), I've had plenty more listening time with the TBA 04.
In particular, I'd like to point out how well instruments are separated out in The Roy Hargrove Quintet's - Strasbourg/St.Denis track. The detail extraction is revealing - the bass celloists hands/fingers as they slide across the strings, the twang of the bass cello strings against the body. And when compared to my full headphone LCD 2s - there's a wholesome quality in these IEMs akin to what you get from full sized cans.
Pros - Great balanced sound, good accessories, lightweight
Cons - plastic build, nozzel type, cable, and overall build
Fischer Audio unveiled its new triple balanced armature IEM recently and the press’s went wild. FA has been known to be a great value audiophile company for a long time now. So many wondered if the TBA-04 was the same. Their full size studio line came out to glowing reviews, so is this the same? Today, Panda Tech Review, gives you a look at the Fischer Audio TBA-04. Let’s see how it is.
Build (Driver / Cable / Termination):
The build is a bit disappointing on the TBA-04. It’s entire body is plastic. Not extremely hard plastic like the kind that is hard to tell from metal, and that is very heavy. It’s the lightweight, shiny kind. This of course plays into the need for a lightweight unit as the way it fits into the ear. But it is still a bit unacceptable looking at it. There are many other products today that use just the suction force of the IEM to keep the unit in place that still have better quality driver build than this $300 unit. The plastic actually looks almost like modeling pieces stiched together. The nozzle itself is also plastic, and what seems to be proprietary from the looks of it due to how small it is compared to most nozzles. (I believe). The wire termination, and cable strain relief is also quite mediocre. It’s a twist type of cable that has good flexibility and apparent well made, but I highly question its long term life. The cable, although of good flexibility, and of solid wiring, isn’t braided exactly with sleeves and fancy material. It is also quite thin. The wire is not removable and uses extremely thin wire strain reliefs on it. The termination plug(3.5mm plug that inserts into your device) itself is also very simplistic, and minimal. Not too much fancy design. Small, short plastic is what describes the termination. Not too glorious, you may think considering all I have said. And you are right, but its not all like that. We need a bit of analyzation to see the good side.
So there’s the bad, what’s the good with the build? Everything is in fact well done on the build. This means that the letters, the colors, and design is all accurate, and high quality. The fit is ergonomic for most ears and plays into how and where the cable should exit the unit. It’s a very smooth and somewhat wrap around driver fit in that the driver isn’t extremely horizontally outsticking like say a TF10. The wire’s flexibility, design, and wire termination although minimal and questionable, works extremely well with the style of the TBA-04 which is small, somewhat artistic and great sounding. If you are wondering what this means, well imagine if the TBA04 had a very thick single nonbraided cable with a thick strain relief component. You probably are now thinking that it will probably be weird to with such a light and ergonomic driver, but with thick, full size class cabling. And that is exactly the type of analyzation that one may try to make as to why the build quality isn’t up to what they may feel about a $300 UIEM.
So there are the two sides. Panda Tech Review believes in presenting both sides of the arguments before offering its full opinion as a way to give its readers the full idea of what the unit is like.
Panda Tech Review’s opinion on the build of the unit is that while it is fitting for the unit, it is a bit lackluster for a unit of its cost and usable style(portable). Portable units need to have a decent amount of build quality, every day use durability, and the ability to possibly be sat on, have a backpack on top of it, etc. With my inspection of the TBA 04, and its build qualities, this is unfulfilled. Unless the plastic and wire and its entire system uses has some incredible build technology or has some inner ‘exoskeleton’ I didn’t know about. I do not believe the quality of materials, and its build is a good representation of a $300 unit.
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