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Custom Art FIBAE 7

Rating:
4.83333/5,
  1. antdroid
    Fibae 7 Review
    Written by antdroid
    Published Jul 21, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Warm DF Tuning
    Very comfortable and lightweight
    Very pleasant tuning. Good midrange
    Cons - lacking a little bit of subbass and treble extension
    [​IMG]





    When I was considering buying a Custom In-Ear Monitor (CIEM) a while back, a company that seemed to get a lot of recommendation for being a good entry level audiophile CIEM was Custom Art, based in Poland. They were considered relatively inexpensive, while delivering capable and likable products.



    Up until now, I still had not ever tried a Custom Art product, but with Headphones.com adding more inventory of new brands this year, and Custom Art being one of them, I was asked recently if I wanted to take advantage of the Community Preview Program at The Headphone Community, and try out the all-new flagship from Custom Art – The Fibae 7, in a limited edition universal-fit Anniversary Blue color.



    The Package


    The Anniversary Blue Fibae 7 was sent to me with just the neoprene zip up carrying pouch, along with a few tips and the IEMs and cable. I do not know if the real unit will have any additional packaging to go along with it at this time.



    The cable features a 2-pin connection and is a bright white/silver colored cable that is thin and lightweight and very easy to handle and use. There’s a chin strap cinch that is useful if you want less cable movement and the connection at the source is a right-angled 3.5mm jack.



    The Fibae 7 features 7 balanced armature drivers and features a patent-pending “Flat Impedance” design. The seven drivers include 2 sub-low, 1 low-mid, 2 mid-high, and 2 top firing tweeters and while most multi-BA IEMs feature low impedance which can cause wild fluctuations with sources, the Flat Impedance technology uses is supposed to minimize any source impact on sound.



    [​IMG]







    Listener Profile
    Before I hit the sound category, let me give you a little look into what I find neutral and what I am using in this review. First off, I tend to lean towards the Diffuse Field target as a neutral signature as opposed to the Harman Target curve which is popular today. My own preferred curve is somewhere in between the two, but more of a warm DF curve with less treble emphasis. As a reference, I currently am using the qdc Anole VX as my daily driver IEM, and before that the Campfire Solaris. I also really enjoy the Moondrop Kanas Pro and ER2XR as a more budget tier IEM that fits my sound signature well.



    My sources used in this review include the RME ADI-2 DAC and it’s 3.5mm IEM output, and 4 different portable sources: The Astell & Kern SR15 A&Norma (warmer DAP), Pioneer XDP-300R (cooler and airy), Fiio M11 (neutral-ish airy), and the Samsung Galaxy S10e phone. I ended up using Final Audio E tips with the Fibae 7 for most of the usage.



    Tuning


    The CustomArt Fibae 7 quickly reminded me of a warmer, more detailed and more exacting version of the Etymotics ER-series of in-ears. That is, a diffuse-field tuned IEM that has a slight bump in the bass region that provides a little more warmth and energy. I have not heard the ER4XR before nor have I heard the ER3XR, but given that they are less elevated than the ER2XR that I do have, I imagine that the Fibae 7 is on-par with that type of sound profile.



    [​IMG]







    Some will find the bass a little lacking, depending on where you come from, but for me, the bass is nicely defined, has some extension, though don’t expect any low-end rumble, or punishing impact. Bass lines are well layered and textured, and provide plenty of detail. As this is a multi-balanced armature IEM, the bass is fast and quick and may not provide a basshead that needed slow decay and punch. It’s also not tuned to do that. Instead, you’ll be rewarded with a nice clean presentation that provides enough elevation to give a little body to the male vocals and the lower midrange.



    Speaking of which, the mids are very coherent. Transition between bass to lower mids and into the upper mids is smooth and I find very appetizing. Male vocals have a little bit more body than female vocals, but both are equally weighted in terms of presence.



    The upper registers of the Fibae 7 are pushing the boundaries of being harsh, but is toned down just enough to provide none of the harshness to me, and also no sibilance. CustomArt made a good balancing act here, and I was rewarded with clean, airy soundscapes and clarity. Treble isn’t quite as extended as I had hoped, but still does not seem like I am missing much with it rolling off.



    Imaging is pretty well done here. There’s clear separation of instruments despite it having a soundstage that is between the ears. Depth and height aren’t as big as I would like, and this IEM is more of a left to right soundstage than a 3D holographic one that I have gotten more used to with the Solaris and the VX more recently.



    In some selective track listening….


    Daft Punk’s Contact:

    This track from Random Access Memories starts off with a spacey soundscape and radio transmissions which sound a little more intimate that I would like. The transition into the main song doesn’t quite have the impactful drum kicks and sustained decay either, but instead hit with tight precision as do the cymbals, which aren’t overly splashy and sound on point. During the busiest section of the song, which is one the most busy tracks in my normal rotation, I found that the Fibae 7 handles it well and never sounds congested or smeared. When comparing to the Campfire Solaris in this track, I found the Solaris to struggle a little bit more with the congestion, however details were more resolving and defined, and the bass impactful and bigger with the Solaris than the Fibae 7.



    M83’s Atlantic Sud:

    This is a track where the Fibae 7 really excels in. Despite being made by the dancey-electro-rock band M83, this is a slower piano ballad featuring Mai Lan trading her beautiful French vocals with M83’s Anthony Gonzales back and forth. The Fibae 7 handles this song with grace and elegance and is ultra-smooth throughout. Both male and female vocals bounce of each other with ease and equally distributed.



    Some other genres to note:

    The Fibae 7 isn’t going to be the best for music that requires a big bassline or big drums like electronic dance music, hip hop, and the like. It’s well suited for vocals, vocals and more vocals. It also plays well with most rock



    Comparisons


    [​IMG]







    Campfire Solaris

    The Solaris is a much bigger and heavier IEM, over doubling the weight of the Fibae 7. The fit can be challenging with the Solaris, as I personally experienced this and documented it in my previous review of the Campfire product. The Solaris provides a bigger dynamic driver-led bass section that punches, extends, and feels more lively than the Fibae 7. It also provides greater warmth and musicality to the signature. The Fibae 7 is tighter, faster, and has less hollow vocals, but may sound a tad boring and sterile when compared to the Solaris. It also has a much smaller soundstage in all directions than the Solaris.



    [​IMG]







    Meze Rai Penta

    The new Rai Penta is the flagship IEM from the Romanian outfit, Meze. The major aesthetic difference between the two is the Rai Penta uses a very attractive CNC machined aluminum alloy shell that is quite a looker. Both feature very similar sound signatures, a warmer diffuse-field-like tuning. The Penta plays it just a tad more safe though, with less extension on both sides, but has punchier bass. On a detail resolution stand point, I find both on par with each other, with maybe a slight nod to the Penta.



    [​IMG]





    Campfire Andromeda

    The Andromeda features both more elevated and punchier pass than the CustomArt Fibae 7, but lacks the midrange presence and vocal clarity. The Andromeda provides much more treble sparkle than the Fibae 7 but I find the Fibae 7 more tonally correct and more coherent in general. It’s also much less sensitive to output impedance than the Andromeda due to it’s Flat Impedance technology.



    [​IMG]




    Overall



    At the end of the day, I find the CustomArt Fibae 7 a very appealing package despite a generally safe tuning approach. Its minor issues are really only present if you want big bass or need a grand soundstage, but other than that, this is a very engaging, coherent, and well-tuned package, and one that is an upgrade upon something like the Etymotics ER series.



    I do find myself really enjoying this IEM because it works for so any of the genres I listen to the most, and that’s a big plus in my books. There are some things I wish it could do better, but I’m pleased with how this one turned out and would consider it as a good reference-type tuning if I wanted to go towards a CIEM in that profile.
  2. davidmolliere
    Magnificent seven!
    Written by davidmolliere
    Published Oct 3, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Mids are full bodied, smooth and articulate with incredibly rich textures while retaining great tonal balance and timbre
    Fun bass tuning, with good kick and extension : subs can be physically felt!
    Exciting yet smooth lower treble with great energy, refined upper treble
    Highly coherent soundstage and pinpoint precise imaging, everything comes together perfectly
    Very good pace, rhythm and timing (great toe tapping factor!)
    Value for money is fantastic
    Cons - None, except if you have an issue with strong upper mids presence and forward signatures
    Special thanks
    Thanks to Piotr for helping me get the FIBAE7 as a repeat customer and reviewer, providing a discounted price as well as the beautiful Galaxy Blue design. As usual, this review is my honest opinion on the FIBAE7.

    Listening notes
    I spent approximately a hundred hours with the FIBAE 7, listening to DX220/AMP9, AMP8 and AMP1 mk2 with Dunu Hulk and stock null audio Arete with AMP9 and AMP1 mk2. I’ll be adding Cayin N6ii (A01) impressions very soon with a source comparison section.


    Packaging
    The FIBAE 7 in custom form comes with a solid black plain card box which contains a black Pelican 1010 hard case with a black lid and internal foam padding (a little upgrade from previous packages that I find great for IEM safety), itself containing a small black pouch with a cleaning tool. The FIBAE7 stock cable is a very nice Null Audio Arete copper cable featuring premium grade multi-stranded UPOCC Copper conductor.

    Specifications
    • Driver configuration, 7 drivers :
      • 2x Sub-Low
      • 1 x Low-Mid
      • 2 x Mid-High
      • 1 x proprietary High
      • 1 x proprietary Super High
    • Sensitivity : 113dB @1kHz @0.1V
    • Distorsion : Low % THD (not specified)
    • 5.9 Ohm @1kHz (+-0.75 Ohm 10Hz-20kHz)
    • 10Hz-21000Hz (+-20dB into IEC 60318-4 coupler)
    5FB6F5A5-C47B-415A-AEBD-643FEE76490F.jpeg

    Fit & Build
    My Custom Art IEM, namely the Black and FIBAE 4 have better isolation than my other custom because the seal is just a little bit tighter than my other customs (VE8, Phantom and EM64 which is based on the same digital impressions). Both were 3D printed black shells, the FIBAE 7 is my first Custom Art CIEM that is not 3D printed.

    The fit and build are simply perfect, and the FIBAE7 looks sturdy and well able to withstand every day use. Note that the shells are quite compact for a seven driver and wearing them is a totally fatigue free experience with perfect seal. I hinted in my FIBAE 4 review that I would go ahead and get a custom design for the F7 and I did pick the acclaimed Galaxy Blue design and I love it!

    I didn’t mention this in my other Custom Art reviews but I do appreciate a lot the option of getting recessed 2pin socket as I find this is more secure. Actually the option to choose between MMCX and 2 pin as well, which is not that frequent and allows for flexibility depending on your cable collection. Kudos to Custom Art for this!

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    Introduction
    2019 will be Custom Art’s year for sure, as they pushed the envelope starting with the FIBAE Black release a very singular single BA with a Helmholtz resonator which also happened to be my first Custom Art IEM and one very special item in my collection. Piotr then went on to explore the benefits of an all top firing BA drivers design with the FIBAE 4 (a first, actually) which was my second Custom Art IEM. In French we have a saying « jamais deux sans trois » or simply put everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.

    I purchased the Black and loved it, then the FIBAE 4 and liked it a lot… and as it turns out Piotr had furthers plans to release a 7 driver flagship for the brand 7th anniversary. No brainer, I couldn’t skip a Custom Art flagship and a statement product at that : « FIBAE 7 incorporates driver modules from across our IEM range to create the most balanced, the most natural and the most exciting IEMs we have done so far. FIBAE 7 is tuned as most natural sounding IEM in Custom Art’s portfolio. Dual sub-bass driver make the lows weighty but never bloated. The vocals are tuned for presence and forwardness with natural smooth tonality. Thanks to two Top-Firing Drivers, the high frequency response is finely detailed and never harsh. FIBAE 7 combines big headroom, high resolution and extreme dynamic range with fast transient response, making it the perfect IEM for audiophiles and musicians looking for precision and naturality. »

    Quite a big claim… does it hold its promises?
    And since we’re are on sayings, after the Black and FIBAE4 is « third time the charm »?
    Let’s see !

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    Sound
    The FIBAE7 signature is to me the epitome of musicality : sub bass provide physicality and strength, engaging mid bass it provides great rhythm and pace while lower treble energy provides plenty of excitement and upper treble finesse, air and resolution. But where the FIBAE7 stands apart in my opinion is its rich, full bodied and textured presentation.

    This is - to me - a very enticing signature and I believe Piotr personal take on what a flagship should be that is neither focused on extreme technicalities or a pure reference signature nor on wowing you at being the « best » at whatever attribute (soundstage, bass, treble, resolution take your pick…). The FIBAE7 won’t be the best flagship in terms of resolution, as we’ll see in the comparison section the VE8 has better resolution. It won’t be the best flagship in terms of speed, as we’ll see in the comparison section the EM64 is faster. It won’t be the best flagship in terms of extension both ways, the Phantom has more sub bass and bass kick, the VE8 has better extension and upper treble refinement. Soundstage is not the biggest but I’ll get back to this it’s very good and coherent, yes width might not be in the « wow » category but height and depth are fairly impressive especially given how full sounding the FIBAE7 both soundstage and imaging are absolutely top tier.

    But the FIBAE7 magic resides in how it combines qualities that draws you into the music, it’s highly engaging and addictive… it exemplifies the saying that « the sum is greater than its parts » and this to me is Piotr real « tour de force » in terms of tuning the FIBAE7. This is also what made it really hard for me to pinpoint why it clicked so incredibly with me and how it got me to find myself surprised during one of the first sessions that my DX220 had run out of battery and it was 5am in the morning (that day, I clocked 12 hours of FIBAE7 listening no less!).

    But enough babble, let’s get serious and dig deeper! In fact for this review I’ll take extra care to dissect quite a bit more than usual to balance out how the FIBAE7 have simply managed to mesmerize me… Let’s snap out of it for a bit, as hard as it was to get analytical about the FIBAE7, I strived to stay true to the reviewer’s task!

    Bass
    The FIBAE7 bass play an important role in the signature, it adds a dimension of physicality and power to the FIBAE7 I like a lot and it also benefits to the soundstage depth and height.

    Bass extension and presence is very good and surprisingly for a BA setup sub bass can be physically felt, it’s almost as if the BAs are pushing air, more so than the FIBAE4 with its top firing bass driver. The 40-50Hz slight bump gives the sub this satisfying weight to bass guitar and punch to kick drums even at lower listening levels which I tend to favor.

    Mid bass has good kick with a rich, textured, layered and nuanced presentation. It gently rolls off between 50Hz and 250Hz avoiding boosting the mid bass to much and helping articulation given the good sub bass presence. Acoustic guitar and piano are full sounding with beautiful bloom and vocals have strong fundamentals. I believe the FIBAE7 bass should raise a few satisfying grins upon listen especially when pushing the volume a bit.

    This being said - despite all its great bass qualities described above - the FIBAE7 won’t be an IEM for bass-heads who will lack in quantity and slam factor that a snappier attack and more tilted signature would bring. But it will provide a strong bass line and of particular note it will be able to keep up with faster paced music helping an excellent sense of rhythm that trickles down the whole signature.

    Mids
    The FIBAE7 mids are full sounding, smooth, rich and textured with fairly forward lead instruments and vocals but the bass and treble balances this nicely, respectively providing good depth and air, kick and excitement balancing the engagement across the whole frequency range. Still the mids are - to me - the star of the show, but the supporting cast is great enough that it doesn’t take up all the attention. Also, the FIBAE7 has just a touch of warmth but it’s a subtle touch which grants the FIBAE7 its advertised naturalness.

    The lower mids section is linear with a very gentle roll off from 250 to 500Hz. Lower stringed instruments have good clarity participating in the general sense of rhythm. Cymbals have meat and electric guitar have girth which contribute to this satisfying full bodied presentation that the FIBAE7 excels at. On the vocals front now, I found vocals to be highly engaging and expressive, male vocals have good power and female vocals are sweeter for a very natural and engaging presentation. The FIBAE7 vocals are among the most enjoyable I have been given the pleasure to listen to.

    The midrange itself is almost flat linear until 900Hz or so with a continuous rise from 900Hz to 2kHz. Bass guitar have good growl and electric guitar plenty of presence - adding to the fun factor - I enjoyed it very much on my Blues favorites. Then a significant upper midrange presence up to 4kHz interrupted only by a small dip at 3kHz and it probably explains that I didn’t find the FIBAE7 to be fatiguing at all despite the upper midrange focus. This being said, I could see some people finding the richness and presence of the upper mids to be too much, especially if they like a leaner presentation it might even be a deal breaker.

    The upper midrange presentation certainly benefits vocals and acoustic guitar presence - as I tend to listen to quite a bit of Indie Folk this is again quite in line with my favorite genres. Hi hats and cymbals also benefit here with good sizzle and snare drums have good crispness, tenor sax has good bite : all part of the a musical sense of rhythm and excitement of the FIBAE7 this time in particular when I was listening to Jazz.

    Treble
    The FIBAE7 matches my treble preferences quite well as I discovered with the IE800 and Solaris I do like my lower treble energy as long as it’s not overdone (the FIBAE7 is way more subtle than both here) and I discovered with the VE8 how much refinement a well executed upper treble section can bring to the table. Luckily for me, the FIBAE7 has both and once again it’s masterfully executed with enough energy to bring excitement and clarity while remaining smooth, non fatiguing and free of sibilance. I also like a bit of weight to my treble especially on Piano notes and the FIBAE7 provides a yummy physical treble.

    This - on top of more upper mids presence - was key to a brighter (but not bright to my ears) signature than the FIBAE4 and even more so the rolled off treble of the Black. In that sense the FIBAE7 positioning is complimentary in the product range. I haven’t had the chance to hear the Harmony 8.2 but from Custom Art website the co-flagship appears to be similar to the FIBAE7 only a bit warmer and less extended which explains why they advertise the FIBAE7 as having more precise imaging.

    The upper treble is no less enticing and I sure appreciate the superb hi hats, cymbals, saxophone and piano overtones as well as snare drum snap and the overall air the FIBAE7 treble brings to the table. The top firing drivers are doing wonders there and I love the naturalness of the treble decay. Given the overall full bodied and rich signature, I found that the upper treble presence and performance provided plenty of resolution to the FIBAE7. Yet, resolution is not there to show off so detail heads might find the FIBAE7 lacking but I think it integrates beautifully with the signature : again the sum is greater than any parts of the FIBAE7.

    I have read many impressions and reviews stating the FIBAE7 is on the more intimate side of things in terms of soundstage but this is probably also form factor (UIEM, CIEM), source and cable dependent. Most reviews around are based on universal FIBAE7 and unfortunately I haven’t been able to compare unlike with the FIBAE Black but I am betting there is a difference. I listened mostly on the DX220 with AMP9 and AMP8, and I certainly never felt the custom FIBAE7 has a very different soundstage than say the VE8 but we’ll get back to this in the comparison section.


    Verdict
    This review has been a very very special one such a fun ride but also an immense challenge to keep it real, because as you gathered the FIBAE7 ticks all of my boxes. So much so that I put both the VE8 and Phantom up for sale, no less… As it turns out third Custom Art IEM is actually is the charm!

    The VE8 - my first custom IEM - has better resolution and still unmatched upper treble refinement : sure, but the FIBAE7 isn’t far behind and has fuller mids and better sub bass extension both items have always been something missing for me int the VE8. The Phantom - my second custom IEM - has a tad more sub bass, fuller lower mids and significantly more bass kick with snappier note attack, but it falls short in the upper treble section which deprives it of a bit of air and its lower treble can be brittle at times with a tad too much energy. The EM64 - the last flagship tier custom IEM in my collection - is a bit faster with incredible transients and has better perceived clarity and transparency and also great balance but it’s both more forward and leaner and I don’t always want to get that high energy, clear and fast paced presentation. This being said it’s quite complementary with the FIBAE7 signature.

    The FIBAE7 is a very rich sounding IEM, a soulful and romantic presentation that combines power and energy with finesse and nuance. In this day and age where Trybrids and newly arrived eStat drivers are highly popular, it also shows that BAs are still entirely relevant to compete in the top tier : craft and tuning is still the essence of the game and tech is only a means to an end. Custom Art has shown that mastering tuning, mixing customized BA driver of different types can make up a very special flagship.

    If you like a full, rich, natural and smooth signature with amazing musicality and great sense of pace rhythm and timing with no compromises on technical foundations then you’re in for a treat with the FIBAE7!


    Sources
    Thanks to the FIBAE tech, the FIBAE7 won’t be impacted by the changes due to output impedance of the source (like the 10ohm OI of the Hiby R6) and therefore changes are only the result of the DAC and amp implementation. The review was mostly written based on iBasso DX220 as a source with AMP1 mk2, AMP8 and NuTubes powered AMP9. I also used the AAW Capri cable for the iPhone and after publishing the review I then acquired the Cayin N6ii with the A01 motherboard.

    DX220
    The DX220 is a very transparent and natural sounding DAP overall and it’s a great pairing with FIBAE7. Resolution is very good and soundstage was the widest of the pairing I have tested with the FIBAE7. AMP1 mk2 is the thickest of the 3 AMPs I have tested on the FIBAE7, with more lower mids presence and the most lower treble energy. AMP8 has more air and a thinner more neutral mids presentation with leaner lower mids, bass is more layered and controlled, lower treble has less energy of the 3 AMPs and upper treble has more presence and better extension than AMP1 mk2. AMP9 has significantly more bass impact, with tighter bass and a tad more sub bass presence than AMP8. Mids are less forward that the other 2 AMPs, lower treble is less energetic than AMP1 mk2 but more than AMP8. There is more air and upper treble has more presence as well as extension.

    My final review was done based on AMP8, which was my favorite pairing.

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    Cayin N6ii
    Now this is my favorite pairing by far, although it’s definitely not one that brings the FIBAE7 into reference / neutral territory, this combo is nothing short of spectacular if you like the FIBAE7 signature it will take it a step further yet.

    Bass is tighter with a sharper attack and shorter decay than DX220 with whichever AMP, there is more snap but also it’s a richer, more textured presentation. The mids are warmer with more lower mids presence, male vocals gain power and female are just a tad sweeter and the overall mids is paradoxically better balanced with the forward upper mids section. This also makes the Cayin N6ii the thickest presentation over the DX220 no matter which AMP. Treble wise, lower treble energy is fairly similar to DX220 with AMP9 which is just the right amount to my ears. Upper treble have far more presence though, and again it brings a different balance to the treble with just as much upper as lower treble.

    This is where the N6ii has better resolution and refinement than the DX220 which carries across the whole signature. Snappier attack across the frequency range and faster decay also means better transients, taking the FIBAE7 to new heights for me with a highly natural and exciting signature. Yet, this pairing makes the FIBAE7 signature more polarizing to those who are sensitive to upper mids and forward signatures in general.

    AAW Capri
    The Capri is a cable including a 24/96 DAC and small balanced headphone amplifier, it exist in Lightning form for the iPhone or USB-C for android phones. It’s very convenient when you want to travel light without a DAP and it performs pretty good.

    This pairing was surprisingly good, with a very neutral presentation and sufficient drive. Bass doesn’t pack the punch, layering or textures of both DX220 or the N6ii but it’s pretty decent with no flaws. Mids are quite balanced with the most lower mids presence and a tad less forward upper mids. It’s obviously much less articulate than both the DX220 and N6ii, with less separation but also less bite. Treble wise, there is good lower treble energy but it lacks a bit of excitement. Upper treble is where it falls short of the two DAPs in a big way and this means significantly less resolution and air.


    Select comparisons


    VE8
    It’s been written by so many, the VE8 is a stunning flagship that managed to raise an almost universal consensus both among people with a focus on technical performance and those who like musical and fun sounding signatures. It manages to reach a balance that very few IEM have reached with strong mid bass presence, reference articulate mids, smooth lower treble and the most refined upper treble presentation I have been given the pleasure to listen to and in fact the very first IEM to grant me this kind of shiver. The VE8 is a very engaging and musical IEM but the FIBAE7 is no less engaging in its own way.

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    First, the FIBAE7 has more sub bass which grants it more power and physicality than the VE8 despite the fact that the VE8 has more mid bass presence which makes it more playful and in a way less reference down low than the FIBAE7.

    The lower midrange is where they are the most similar although the VE8 has a little more lower mids presence but where they differ in a big way is from 1kHz to 4kHz where the FIBAE7 has a much steeper rise between 1 and 2kHz and then a bump in the 2-4kHz range. The FIBAE7 is more forward, full bodied and has a richer midrange than the VE8. Vocals are more prominent in the mix but also sweeter sounding with richer textures.

    The treble section is also quite different, while the FIBAE7 has a significant dip from 4kHz to 12kHz with two bumps at 5kHz and 7kHz the VE8 has much more treble presence from 5kHz to 10kHz with peaks at 6 and 8kHz. While the VE8 has some hints of sibilance on some recordings depending on the source and cable, the FIBAE7 never exhibited any issue on that front. The VE8 has a bit more edge to its treble but I found the FIBAE7 had more lower treble energy and more weight to its treble compared to the feather touch of the VE8 treble.

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    While listening this translated into a significantly better resolution for the VE8 and a blacker background. Instrument wise I found violins more emphasized, saxophones clearer sounding (on Gerry Mulligan and Ben Webster “Chelsea Bridge”), piano notes more nuanced (on Diana Krall “Pick yourself up”) and imaging more precise with wider and deeper soundstage. On the flipside the FIBAE7 had significantly more sub bass, fuller sounding vocals with richer textures and instruments with better presence of lead instruments and singer. The soundstage is taller than the VE8, and overall this makes it grander in my mind than the VE8 soundstage although I suspect they are fairly similarly sized I find the FIBAE7 more holographic.


    Phantom
    The Phantom is the second flagship I purchased after the VE8, the longing for a thicker sounding IEM, as well as more sub bass presence was the main driver for me. The Phantom is a bit of a controversial IEM because it has an opiniated tuning, you either click with it or you don’t. On one side you’ll have people like me who crave its unique thickness, body and weight and on the other side you’ll have people who find it dark, too thick, too rolled off up top... which is to show that an opiniated tuning can be quite polarizing but it’s also what makes it unique.

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    Compared to the FIBAE7, the Phantom has similar bass presence but with a more satisfying sharper attack that certainly caters more to the bass-head in me. It also has much more lower mids emphasis and much less forward upper midrange than the FIBAE7 granting it a deeper soundstage. I found the Phantom to have more lower treble energy at times its treble can be a bit brittle depending on the pairing, and certainly less natural than the FIBAE7. But aside from the upper mids presentation, the upper treble section is where the Phantom is the most different from the FIBAE7. The Phantom sharp roll off after its 8kHz bump is significantly different than the FIBAE7 which has quite more upper treble presence.

    Compared to the Phantom, the FIBAE7 is much more open sounding, with more precise imaging and a wider soundstage although the Phantom is deeper. Both are similarly tall. Vocals and instruments are more forward, the FIBAE7 is less warm and more natural than the Phantom both for male and female vocals. The FIBAE7 is clearly more resolving than the Phantom, with better separation.


    EM64

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    Earsonics EM64 is the latest addition and flagship of the “pro” line primarily targeting musicians on stage and it reflect in its tuning : you’re meant to be « in » the music, like the FIBAE7 this is a forward signature - both instruments and vocals are up front - with blazing speed that can handle anything you’ll throw at it and if you’ve read my EM64 review you know I was wowed by its transients, speed and headroom. Like the FIBAE7 it shares a sane pricing in the current flagship market and like the FIBAE7 it therefore punches de facto well above its price point (in fact I consider both compete at any price point and are very much TOTL).

    This is maybe the most interesting comparison as the EM64 and FIBAE7 share a similar forward tuning and upper mids presence, which was in other comparisons the most distinctive factor between the FIBAE7 and VE8 and FIBAE7 and Phantom. This time is different. Overall the EM64 and FIBAE7 have the same highly engaging qualities in that they draw you into the music with their forward presentation.

    The FIBAE7 and EM64 also share a great sense of rythm with the EM64 having the edge on faster paced music and the FIBAE7 on a more natural take on fast, with a more natural decay. The EM64 is clearly the brighter IEM while the FIBAE7 had that carefully thought out touch of warmth and smoothness with softer attack where the EM64 is much snappier, more exciting but also more fatiguing.

    Sub bass extension is fairly similar, as well as mid bass presence with again the main difference laying in note attack, snappier on the EM64 with shorter decay and faster recovery time. The EM64 therefore as a drier bass than the FIBAE7, while not falling in my book in the dry category either (it’s just that the FIBAE7 is quite opposite of the scale there). Both IEM have great toe tapping factor but I prefer the richer texture of the FIBAE7 in the end if I had to pick one.

    The FIBAE7 has fuller bodied mids thanks to more lower mids presence where the EM64 has a sharper dip between the mid bass and lower mids, but also upper mids are brighter still on the EM64. This makes the EM64 even more energetic, but also it has more clarity and transparency. On the flipside the FIBAE7 is more euphonic with smoother presentation, rich textures and fuller body.

    Last but not least the treble section is one of the distinctive difference between the EM64 and FIBAE7, the EM64 has a smoother upper mids to treble transition making it again brighter overall while the FIBAE7 has a sharp dip 4 to 7kHz with the exception of a 5 and 7kHz bump. Interestingly, I find the FIBAE7 doesn’t lack lower treble energy, mainly also because treble has similar body and weight, it’s just less fatiguing because again the note attack is softer and decay is not as fast and more natural on the FIBAE7. Now upper treble is more prominent on the EM64 and it sounds more resolving than the FIBAE7, helped by greater clarity and transparency.

    In all my collection, the EM64 is a very complementary IEM to the FIBAE7 because it gives me two alternative takes on highly engaging signature : both have great sense of rhythm, both are fairly forward and if it’s your kind of signature you’ll enjoy, but one is clearer, faster and more reference the other more euphonic, richer sounding and fuller bodied.

    Rai Penta
    Note : this comparison is taken from my Rai Penta review.

    I’ll be comparing the Penta with Custom Art Silicon tips and the custom FIBAE7 I have in my collection. The Penta and FIBAE7 share a beautifully executed balance across the frequency range, just a very different presentation and a warmer tilt to the FIBAE7. From this point of view the Penta is more reference and the FIBAE7 is more on the euphonic side of things.

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    When switching from the Penta to the FIBAE7, the most important difference you’ll notice right away is how full bodied and thick the FIBAE7 sounds comparatively to the Rai Penta. The Penta almost has a feather like touch to notes compared to the FIBAE7. This is mainly due to the lower mids tuning, leaner on the Penta and significantly more present in the FIBAE7. Vocals are a bit more forward in the mix and lusher as well, this is a flattering presentation with more power to male vocals and sweeter tone to female. While they share similar ability to convey nuances of vocals and instruments, the Penta is more strictly accurate in its tone and more articulate.

    I also believe the absence of venting on the FIBAE7 makes for more dense presentation of notes overall including more bass presence and weight. Despite featuring 2 BA for bass against 1 DD for the Penta, the FIBAE7 has more bass kick and even subs can be physically felt which is something to behold. This carries over the treble section as well where the lower treble has significantly more weight and body the treble impact is greater. On the flip side the Penta has better layering and detail is more apparent with a clearer signature.

    The Penta feels more open and has better separation, the FIBAE7 feels more of a whole with less separation but more of a continuum of sound. The FIBAE7 is more organic, the overall signature is richer in a way that will be too much for some especially with thicker sounding sources. The Penta feel more open mainly thanks to the air brought by its thinner tuning versus the thicker FIBAE7. Soundstage wise, the Penta is wider but the FIBAE7 is taller and deeper. Note attack is snappier on the Penta and softer with the FIBAE7 which remains the epitome of buttery smooth at all times.


    StealthSonics U9
    Coming soon
      YCHANGE, ZeDuK, papa_mia and 7 others like this.
    1. audio123
      audio123, Oct 3, 2019
      ZeDuK and davidmolliere like this.
  3. akared
    CustomArt FIBAE7 -- Let it flow
    Written by akared
    Published Jul 8, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - - Natural signature
    - forward and bodied vocals
    - slightly bright without bring sharp
    - imaging
    Cons - - not the most resolving TOTL
    - universal shells on larger side
    Disclaimer: the F7 was purchased directly from the CustomArt, Poland with full retail price. I am not affiliated with the company nor do I receive any kind of incentives or rewards for writing this review.

    Introduction: When it comes to the FIBAE line-up, I don’t think that lengthy description is needed given that the previous models such as F2 through F4 have been extremely well received by the audiophile community. Personally owning the F2 and F3 (both universals), I have grown to love CustomArt’s house sound – clear, forwardly positioned vocals, fun bass and never fatiguing signature. When Piotr announced the F7 anniversary model, I jumped right on and hope that they would have maintained the traits I love, SQ-wise, and the F7 does not disappoint!


    Build quality and fit: The anniversary model comes in universal only – the blue/lagoon-ish shell is gorgeous and the build quality is perfect as to be expected from CustomArt. The shells, though, are much thicker than those of F2 and F3 – kind of obvious since there are 7 drivers on each side. To my ears, the fit of the F7 is kind of tricky: using the same sized tips on both sides, the ‘tightness’ are not the same. I am not saying that there is any king of sizing inconsistency – I am mentioning this because my ears are not of the exact same shape and this does affect the sound that I perceive which I will talk about later in the review.
    TL;DR – perfect build quality as always.

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    Sound: Piotr describes the sound signature of the F7 as “most natural sounding IEM in Custom Art’s portfolio” and, from my experience with his products, I couldn’t agree more. The overall signature of the F7 is, indeed, natural in a sense that no frequencies overshadow another. The elaborate, the bass is powerful enough to ‘feel’ and is not lacking by any means, the mids are dense and, consistent with the house sound, vocals are bodied and forwardly-placed, and highs are prominent without sibilance.

    Bass: Starting with the lows, the F7 definitely has a sub-bass bias over mid and upper bass. The bass extends really low where kick drums are easily felt while the control remains excellent. Rumbles are present and can really draw the focus if the tracks demand. While the bass is strong and fun, it is not stepping anywhere near the basshead territory. Mid and upper bass are not recessed, but they are not accentuated too much so they don’t occupy too much space in the audiovisual landscape and thus allows for other frequencies to cut through clearly. Speed is fast given the quantity and layering is very well executed given that the bass is BA-driven. On that note, bass texture is still not at the same level as the bass from dynamic driver (W900 comes to mind) but for what it does, the F7 renders its bass with grace and power. The bass has dimensions and dynamics -- definitely not your typical one-note bass associated with BAs.

    Mids: Midrange, to me, is the area that makes for breaks the IEM. My attention is, most of the times, on the vocalist(s) or instruments that drive the melody such as guitars or piano and the F7 does put those elements under spotlight. I have always loved that CustomArt execute vocals in a way that, does not really matter what the sound signature is (natural or V-shaped), the vocals always cut through with ease. The F7 follows the same path but with extra refinement – Vocals are of sufficient sizes, however, they are exceptionally dense and bodied while remaining not too warm nor too bright and without any sibilance – truly an exceptional balance. I can see, though, that this placement of vocals can be too forward for some: on some tracks (tracks where bass is not the focus – Asian tracks with vocals plus old school instruments such as drums, guitars and bass), vocals can come out as shouty at high volumes.

    One quick note: I do notice slight left ear bias in the midrange, especially with vocals, where I feel like the sound pressure on the left side is a little bit stronger that the right which gives a feeling of the vocalist being placed slightly to the left of the stage instead of the center stage. This could be due to the insertion problem I mentioned earlier in the fit section or some slight channel imbalance.

    Highs: The highs of the F7 is slightly forward and are really well extended. The higher octaves are easily heard and the presence of highest of highs contributes to the air that suffuses throughout the entire frequency response. The presentation of high frequency is exceptionally balanced – I don’t hear any bias towards lower treble, mid or high treble that to me, that is such a feat that gives the high frequency such a natural timbre. One other thing about the highs that impress me is, again, how the frequencies are presented with such body and authority without being sibilant.


    Technicalities: The F7 impresses with its exceptional balance across the frequency range but how does it perform when it comes to technicalities? The first minute of listen did not give that ‘wow’ factor – the F7 does not try to impress by pushing details at you nor surrounding you with ridiculously big soundstage. Resolution-wise, the F7 is not the most resolving IEM out there (offerings like Empire Ears Zeus and Vision Ear VE8 come to mind). Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely NOT saying that it is not resolving since it is definitely not the case and resolution is relative (as I will elaborate more in the comparison section). However, once you let the F7 sit in for a little while, it will start to show its prowess – spatial cues rendering is top-notch – you can really pinpoint where each note originates from thanks to its 3D soundstage and excellent imaging ability. This is not a stage that totally surrounds you with a wall of sound (think FAudio major) or with depth and strong bass (think Empire Ears X line-up) like most of the V-shape IEMs. Instead, the F7 offers soundstage that is more natural – it gives the feeling of being in an semi-open space as opposed to being in a concert hall. I used the word ‘semi’ here because it is definitely not the most open sounding IEM but I have heard a lot of this really ‘open’ sounding products that sacrifice the integrity of the stage for the sheer size and openness. I would say that the F7 strikes a great balance between openness while maintaining the coherence of the stage. Speaking of coherence, the presentation of the entire frequency range sounds coherent – as if the F7 is driven by a single driver. Natural timbre is maintained across the frequency range and not one part of the spectrum stands out as outlier – remarkable feat for 7-driver IEMs. Note size is average; however, it is the density and power of each note that stands out. Note edge is distinct – each note has its own boundary and does not bleed over not does it blur out the overall presentation and this gives the feeling of space and separation. For me, personally, this ability really grows on me the longer I listen to the F7 as I kept discovering the little spatial details (Oh, I did not know that this note comes from behind my head!) from even the tracks that I have been listening to repeatedly. Kudos to the CustomArt team :)


    Select Comparisons

    CustomArt FIBAE3: I did a number of sessions of A/B-ing the F3 and the F7 because my initial impression of the F7 is that it is like the F3 on steroids. I would stand behind that statement but with come elaborations. I feel like the F7 has a similar overall frequency response to the F3 ina sense that they are both quite a W-shape IEMs. Starting from the bass, both IEMs have sub-bass focus. The difference comes to the power and layering where the F7 hits harder and extends slightly lower – kick drums sound more physical. The upper bass of the F3 feels more bloated next to the F7 – there is more definition that results from the more resolved note edge on the F7. The mids share similar forwardness but the F7 is much more bodied which can make the F3 sounds hollow. The F3 has bigger note size and more diffuse note edge while, again, the F7 is more defined and is much denser – this gives vocals throaty quality. Comparison of the highs follow the same trend – notes are clearer on the F7 and are more controlled. With its more defined notes, the F7 offers better separation and significantly improved imaging. Timbre is better and more natural (organic) on the F7 as well due to its denser notes while the sheer sized is more confined. One thing that contributes to the slightly plastic timbre of the F3 is that even though the notes are big and on a brighter (leaner) side of the scale, the transient is quite slow. F7 have that problem handled and now the timbre is much more natural. F3 is ‘open’ sounding, but the stage feels small coming from the F7.

    CustomArt FIBAE2: The F2 is what started it all for me – I fell in love with it and then bought the F3 and later the F7. My beloved CustomArt house sound started with the F2 – nice and bodied bass, forward vocals and present but not offensive highs. Back when I got the F2, its ability to render spatial cues blew my mind. I was watching a movie with the F2 and on many occasion I though someone walked into my room – turned out it was the room in the movie. Wow. F2 gives this feeling of being in a live-performance and being surrounded by the performers. Comparing the F2 to the F7, I found that the F7 improves the good traits from the F2 and brings them onto new heights by enhancing the technicalities such as resolution and separation. Switching from the F7 back to the F2 feels like putting a resolution filter on – I am not saying that the F2 is not resolving – it is just not as resolving as the F7 and there is a ‘blur’ factor coming directly from the F7. Maybe this is also because of the more lifted mid-bass on the F2 that slightly bleeds and blur out the entire presentation (again, the word ‘blur’ is relative). Vocals are more forward on the F7 and highs have significantly better extension. As with the F3, the stage dimensions are more extended on all three directions on the F7.


    Verdict: The F7 is my favorite TOTL IEMs yet. With sublime technicalities equipped with toe-tapping musicality without pushing the details at your face, the F7 strikes a balance that I have never heard before on the market and in a good way. Currently, my pair is back at CustomArt for reshelling into customs and I can do more comparisons and update my impressions once I got it back.
    1. pinkzeppelincult
      Solid review! Any chance you can do a more detailed comparison with the Zeus? I love the latter for the most part but I've always wished it had a better bass extension and less mid-bass bias. Would the 7 do the trick?
      pinkzeppelincult, Jul 17, 2019
      akared likes this.
    2. akared
      Hi there! My apologies for the delayed response. To me, the F7 still can't match the Zeus in terms of sheer resolution and clarity even though the F7 itself is very capable and resolving. The F7 is smoother in the midrange and treble while the stage dimensions are bigger on the Zeus. The bass on the F7 is noticeably fuller and denser and you can feel the slam much better than the Zeus.
      akared, Jul 22, 2019
      pinkzeppelincult likes this.