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Custom Art FIBAE Black

Rating:
4.61111/5,
  1. davidmolliere
    The Black Siren
    Written by davidmolliere
    Published May 2, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Superb midrange with soulful timbre both for instruments and vocals
    Leading class black background
    Fun mid bass tuning
    Refined treble presentation
    Very low distorsion
    Superb fit and build, Isolation is as good as it comes
    Tremendous value for money / competitive pricing
    Cons - Fit could be a bit tight for some (could be only early batch like me)
    Not the fastest balanced armature
    Mid bass can be a bit too much on some tracks, especially compared to the universal Black
    Limited sub bass and treble extension
    Disclaimer
    I have happily purchased and paid the full (pre-order) retail price for the FIBAE Black, this is not a sponsored review.

    Note
    This review is based on over 200 hours listening to the Black, sources were Hiby R6 Pro and iDSD Micro BL, and the iPhone XS Max with dongle all with the stock cables. I tried several cables with the Black : Hansound Zen 8 wire balanced 4.4 and ALO Superlitz balanced 2.5 with 4.4 adapter with the Hiby and 3.5 with micro BL. Of note is the fact the Black is not as source dependent as other IEMs and the FIBAE tech really works well : the IPhone dongle with stock cable already provides 90% of the great qualities of the IEM.



    Packaging
    The FIBAE Black in custom form comes with a solid black plain card box which contains a black Pelican 1010 hard case with a transparent lid itself containing a small blue pouch with a cleaning tool.

    Specifications

    • Single proprietary Balanced Armature
    • Pressure Optimizing Design
    • 108.5dB @1kHz @0.1V
    • Low %THD
    • 5.2 Ohm @1kHz (+-0.8 Ohm 10Hz-20kHz)
    • 3D printed acrylic shell
    • 10Hz-16000Hz (+-10dB into IEC 60318-4 coupler)
    • Custom or Universal fit

    Introduction
    Strangely, the Black is my first Custom Art IEM. I had heard a lot of good things about the FIBAE 3 and a few testimony of the uniqueness of the Harmony 8.2 but for some reason it neither seem to complement my IEM collection at the time.

    When the Black came out, I was very much intrigued by the technical implementation as well as the signature description : « Designed as a statement, breaking rules and going against the current. (…) Natural smooth sound with fast-paced deep bass, forward mids and smooth extended highs. Tuned for correct tone and enjoyment without sacrificing extension on both ends. It’s one of our most versatile IEM yet combining musicality and precision ».

    I must admit, I have a weak spot for people who are going against the current in general (the Warbler Prelude was also high on my list by the way), for smooth musical signatures, and for single driver implementations. Combine that with a very agressive pricing - and one of the few manufacturer still allowing transfer and decently priced reshell options - and I was instantly in for a pair of custom Black!

    I had to check the claims stated above and it was the perfect excuse to jump aboard the Custom Art train. Let’s see how this turned out!

    920C4CFF-2982-42FD-A6E7-AD40C2AA7B11.jpeg

    Fit

    The Black is the first IEM in Custom Art lineup that is 3D printed and also my first 3D printed custom IEM. I have had some of the finest built custom IEM in the VE8, and since other 3D printed IEMs in the EM64 and… FIBAE 4. The Black have a superb fit, with perfect seal and isolation. The fit of the Black is the tightest I have had the finish is superb and the transparent faceplate is a nice way to enjoy the Black engineering. I don’t have a problem with tighter fit but I gather some people were not as comfortable and that might be why when I received my FIBAE 4 based on the same prints the fit was just a hair more relaxed while retaining great seal and isolation.


    Build

    The build of my FIBAE Black is superb at any price point. I just wished that Custom Art adopted a horn bore design, like my Phantom and VE8 and Custom Art very own FIBAE 1, as it prevents spending time cleaning up the wax at the bore exits. But I am nitpicking, and it’s probably much more complex to implement with 3D printing.

    7D917103-AD19-44B5-BE70-7875AFC65FB8.jpeg

    Sound

    The Black feature a very smooth signature, with a nice mid bass boost that provide good rhythm, good lower mids presence that infuse a definite but not overdone warmth. The midrange is linear with a gentle and well thought out bump in upper mids to provide articulation and just a touch of lower treble to provide excitement. Upper treble is where things are quite subdued but convey nuances and air avoiding any congestion which is tricky with richer and smoother signatures. Although it’s on the more intimate side with an average width, the depth and height stand out as well above average and the soundstage is more expansive than one would think and very balanced in its distribution : the work on acoustic design certainly paid off there. I found the stage image to be very good and accurate.

    The softer attack and smooth decay overall making for a fatigue free but engaging listening experience. The exceptionnally black background (wait, was there a hint in the name to begin with?) helps provide a lot of contrast, where other IEMs will rely on detail retrieval and treble presence. This is a key item of what makes the Black special in my opinion and possibly a benefit of the Helmholtz resonator tech that Custom Art used to build the FIBAE Black. Another benefit is very low distorsion, and I found myself pushing the volume with great pleasure on some tracks.

    We often focus on the frequency range but the Black is a good example of the limitations of describing sound quality based on the frequency range and distribution across bass, mids and treble.

    Now that I have said that, I’ll precisely do it nevertheless :wink:

    Bass
    As I have hinted above the FIBAE Black feature a signature with limited bass extension there isn’t much sub bass to talk about. The focus is clearly on its mid bass with a generous boost that gives it a definite toe tapping factor. The bass line has good presence and percussions are deep and full, but the Black won’t provide the kick factor that a sharper attack would provide.

    As I have had the opportunity to audition the universal FIBAE Black as well, this is one key difference with the custom form. I found the universal Black more balanced than the custom : note that the full seal of the custom is not the only thing that came into play as I had custom art silicon custom tips to try out the universal. I am wondering if the sound tube of the universal is not a tad bigger than the custom there… I found the bass less prominent in the universal Black making for a more balanced presentation overall.

    Mids
    This is where the magic happens, maybe also because it’s the Black primary focus and extension either way doesn’t distract you from their mesmerizing mids. Let’s say it, the Black are probably my favorite mids regardless of price, driver tech or anything else… yeah well I am a romantic, blame me! And the Black mids are as romantic as it gets, full sounding with rich textures and a soulful timbre that is north of neutral but who cares? Music is emotion first, isn’t it?

    Vocals are a special highlight of the Black. Male vocals are firmly seated in the lower mids presence and provide a sense of power while remaining smooth no matter what, some will say it lacks a rougher edge that does exist on certain tracks and they wouldn’t be wrong but it’s not the point of the Black tuning. Similarly female vocals are sweet and enticing with again beautiful textures that pop against that very special dark background, the smart upper mids and lower treble tuning provide engagement but again some might find that it doesn’t go far enough to reflect some female performers ability to go to the edge.

    The Black has its own interpretation, as in it will smoothen the edges but within those smooth edges lie the beauty of their soulful timbre and rich, detailed textures, both for vocals and instruments : the strings (especially the double bass), brass and woodwinds are of special note. I found myself surprised at how good the Black are with jazz, instrument separation is very good and the Black handles complex passage quite well.

    Quick comparison to the customs : the universal feature a tad more upper mids furthering the differences between the custom and the universal which is indeed more articulate and balanced.

    Treble
    The Black treble are interesting : what they lack in extension and upper presence shouldn’t fool you into thinking that this is a strictly speaking descending signature : it’s more complex than this.

    The Black don’t extend very far but they have more energy and detail retrieval ability in the lower treble region than most would give it credit for on a quick listen. Snare and cymbals have good presence, with the necessary energy to punctuate tracks adequately. The black might be smooth, but they don’t lack energy, the delivery will just remain smooth obviously avoiding any harshness by design due to limited extension and smoother note attack. The fact that decay is on the longer side will keep note lingering a tad more, but it’s not overdone and decay is very natural.

    As for upper treble, the Black won’t scratch the itch for detail retrieval and maximum excitement but it has enough presence to provide air and the Black never sound congested unless the master itself is poorly done.

    Note : I’ll add some additional input about cable and source rolling there, as well as select comparisons.


    Verdict
    The Black is appart in the FIBAE lineup, in that it’s based on a radically different design pattern - from the ground up. There is a lot of work into the technical design, especially in acoustics and it shows. It might be priced as an entry level custom IEM (and a mid priced universal) but it sure doesn’t sound like one!

    I took my sweet time writing this review, because really I often got lost into the music, which usually is a good sign of an engaging IEM. In the case of the Black I’ll go as far as saying a mesmerizing IEM, highly engaging with a lot of facets. That’s the second aspect of why it took me a bit of time, both because I found myself absorbed into its smooth and beautiful portraying and because it’s not that easy to « analyze » and try to depict how its « magic » works.

    The mids are the star of the show and among the best rich, full, smooth mids you’ll ever find while not sacrificing articulation and separation. That’s the easy part of the review.

    But what was hidden in plain sight because you can’t see it until you don’t hear it elsewhere, the FIBAE Black has an exceptionally black background that does a lot for contrast. Notes pop against that background and a lof of the perceived detail retrieval that comes from this makes for a very special experience that a whole bunch of upper treble won’t provide in the same way. In the same spirit, the notes softer attack won’t provide shimmer or bite, but the Black more than makes up for it by providing a delicately beautiful presentation of the music. I am pretty sure both my blood pressure and heart rate was much lower thanks to the Black :D

    This became apparent when I started switching with other IEMs which took me a while because I was « stuck », enthralled in the mesmerizing voice of the Sirens...or should I say Black Siren, pun intended as I must say the super heroin is neither my favorite character of the « Arrowverse » neither does it represent the FIBAE Black very well (given its special power is to disable enemies by defeaning them which is the total opposite of the FIBAE Black). I just thought it was a catchy title, as to me the FIBAE Black are just as enticing as a Siren and well, they have this amazing black background!

    Beware my friend, of the song of the Black Siren, deafening beauty might just lull you into a second state!
      F700, ezekiel77, meringo and 15 others like this.
    1. F700
      Merci!
      F700, May 19, 2019
  2. ustinj
    FIBAE Black: A Guilty Pleasure
    Written by ustinj
    Published Jan 30, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - bass, excellent tonality & timbre, vocal texturing, solid layering, ability in complex passages, slightly narrow but consistent staging, fatigue-free listening, source independent signature
    Cons - presence dip, treble extension, narrow staging, resolution is average for price range
    The FIBAE Black is a single-balanced armature in-ear monitor from Custom Art, available in both custom and universal form factors and retailing for 450 EUR. In terms of customization, the shell is only available in black (as the name precedes), but the faceplates can be customized.

    [​IMG]
    I'd like to give big thanks Piotr and Kamil from Custom Art for sending out a sample of the FIBAE Black for me to test and review. I'll be attempting to cover the quality and sound of the FIBAE Black with as little bias as possible. Almost all of my listening is done through the Sony NW-ZX300a, playing FLAC, WAV, and 320kbps MP3. Occasionally, I have also tested the Black through the LG V20 and OnePlus 6T USB-C dongle streaming Spotify Premium.
    You can find more information, pricing, and details of the FIBAE Black at Custom Art's site, available through the following link:
    I've had these for a little bit under a week, but had to have already put something around 40 hours of listening on them. That's already saying a little something, isn't it?


    Delivery

    I'll try to keep this section concise. The Custom Art FIBAE Black comes in a plain black box, containing a small pocketable zip-case and a black Pelican 1010 with foam lid padding. In summation, you'll find:​
    • Pocket-sized zip case​
    • Black Pelican 1010​
    • FIBAE Black + cable​
    • Tips (S / M / L + M biflange)​
    • Desiccant​
    • Cleaning tool​
    • Warranty / info sheet​

    The FIBAE Black (universal) is tuned for the included stock tips. They are made of a slightly thinner material that gives easily, so using the right size is necessary. Using tips too large resulted in the tip 'folding' along itself and breaking the seal (whereas with other tips, a large tip will seal but have a shallow insertion depth). I was able to get a consistent fit with the small stock single-flange tips.​

    [​IMG]
    I've had some good experience using the FIBAE Black with other tips, such as Acoustune AET07s -- however, for the entirety of this review, I'll be covering the sound with the stock tips (S).

    I'm not sure the specifications of the stock cable, but in terms of ergonomics it does quite well. It's flexible and performs decently in microphonics, though there is a tad bit of springiness to it. It doesn't retain memory and the chin slider is very effective. It's a simple, good-looking cable that does gets job done!​

    [​IMG]
    In terms of fit and finish, Custom Art's shell work seems to be of very high quality. I have a set of FIBAE 3 on loan (thanks to Crinacle), and the shells here have no bubbles or imperfections. I assume the same follows for the FIBAE Black, though since it is opaque such things like that would not matter. The nozzle does have grooves for silicone/foam tips to latch on securely -- I did quite a bit of tip rolling with the Black, and it seems to be holding up quite well so far. Detachable 2-pin connectors sit flush with the IEM (so not recessed), which is supposedly better for longevity and durability purposes. The inner surface of the housing is imprinted with the serial number of the IEM, in the respective blue/red for the left/right monitors.

    I did not give any particular input on the faceplate design, but the result was described as "broken glass with a chameleon effect". Aptly named, as the glass flakes shift between emerald and sapphire hues depending on the angle at which light hits it. From some perspectives, there's no green at all and the result is blue / lilac!​

    [​IMG]
    Custom Art's universal shell fit is excellent. I was seriously happy with the way the FIBAE 3 fit, and am once again impressed with the Black. The two shells are similar, but it appears the Black is actually slightly larger. However, the FIBAE Black still remains on the smaller side of things. It lays completely secure and flush with my ears (with the right tips, of course), and doesn't protrude at all -- like a custom would. I also don't have any issues with discomfort over long periods of time.

    Sound
    [​IMG]
    The FIBAE Black can be described as a warm neutral IEM with a slight tilt towards the lower frequencies. It has a smooth overtone with thick solid midrange notes, rolling off gently in the treble region. As a result, the FIBAE Black does not have the greatest sense of treble airiness or extension. However, there is not an out-of-place peak, valley, or any sign of incoherence in sight when it comes to the Black. It's a slightly coloured listening experience that envelops the listener in a natural warmth; the longer I listen the more I recgonize its tone, imaging, and layering as its strengths.

    Sound is described using the stock single-flange tips, with a slightly deeper insertion. I found out a bit later that tip rolling made moderately significant changes to the sound. A shallower fit (with the stock biflange) shifts the sound from low-end tilt to a more neutral, balanced sound.​

    Bass
    Single-BA setups tend to leave one end or the other a bit neglected in terms of extension, whether it be in the low bass or higher treble regions. With the FIBAE Black, I can say that the low end is not lacking, especially with deep insertion. For a single balanced-armature, the Black delivers some commendable subbass and adequate impact to back it up. Subbass is a tad smooth in texture with a warm overtone, but Black still presents a surprisingly satisfying amount of rumble. Midbass is boosted in quantity but slightly blunted in attack, resulting in less aggressive bass hits with higher density. In terms of sheer amount, the Black is not shy when it comes to throwing down the bass -- it settles a bit above what I'd consider "good fun". Electronic tracks with a heavy focus on bass riffs and sequences like "Kotek & Littlemore - Surface" are very engaging and immersive through the Black -- something I am surprised to say considering the single-BA driver setup.

    I found bass rumble to be pretty intense with stock single flange, but actually more neutral with a stock biflange. Subbass has less authority with the latter, giving a quicker, more BA-typical presentation.​

    Midrange
    Black aims for a warmer, more natural rendering of midrange notes, while maintaining adequate forwardness. Lower midrange is full, carrying momentum from the upper bass frequencies without significant bass bleeding. This balance gives the midrange a warm and 'organic' tilt, working well in the spectrum of male vocals and heftier woodwind instruments. Upper midrange is lifted moderately around 2-3khz to balance vocal body at the forefront of its presentation, though not overly forced in the mix due to the less emphasized presence region. Texturing is pleasantly smooth and rich in the midrange, there's a distinct and unique sweetness to vocals through the Black.

    Preferably, I'd typically opt for a tad more 4-6khz presence, as currently it seems to be slightly blended over in this region -- female vocal presence and snare drums are just a tiny shade blunter in the mix, certain singers and electric guitars could use more 'bite' to give the Black a sharper, more perceivable resolution with increased clarity. This becomes less of an issue as listening volume increases. As an added bonus, when I do push the volume, that's when the Black's layering capabilities become more apparent. I'll cover more about this after treble. After some extended listening, I'd say that this section is borderline mood-based. There are some days where the upper midrange sounds exceptionally natural, there are some days where I'd like that extra 'bite'.

    Treble
    As mentioned earlier, most single-BA setups I've tried have lacked extension in one way or another. Black has taken an alternative path to treble presentation -- while it's not lacking in extension, it's reduced in quantity as a tradeoff. Black's treble is gentle, smooth, and a fair amount below what I'd consider the typical "reference". It feels like it rolls off gently without sudden drop-off, but there's little air or sparkle -- it's just not adequate in quantity at higher frequencies for me to throw in these buzzwords. But don't take it out of context: the Black doesn't sound congested or closed-in (see Layering). Microdetail and texturing in the upper frequencies are there, not at the forefront of its signature. Typically when I consider rolled off treble, it disappears somewhere in the upper frequencies, but with the Black I feel that upper treble is there but just significantly softer in quantity. That being said, there are no out-of-place peaks, dips, or weird jagged edges that I can pinpoint. It's just a smooth, streamlined, and sloping treble response that doesn't really throw any red flags up other than those based on quantity preferences.

    I found using the stock biflange tips introduced a noticeably increased mid-treble quantity. I preferred the deep insertion of the small tips as it eliminated any potential peakiness, though also seemingly reduced the 'air'. Tradeoffs.​

    [​IMG]

    Layering / Staging
    After covering the overall sound signature, it's clear that the Black is a warmer IEM with softer treble presentation. It's not my typically preferred sound signature, and the Black's technical prowess isn't exactly turning heads -- so why does the Black still sound good?

    When I pay attention to Black's characteristics outside of basic tonality, it really feels like all the instruments and vocals are melted seamlessly together into a syrup of sound. Absolutely nothing feels lost (it's all layered together nicely), but not really found either (separation becomes fuzzy). Isolating individual instruments and vocals completely isn't as simple as with more clarity-focused earphones, it's almost as if all the layers are working together simultaneously, sharing mutual spatial bubbles with one another. It's just pleasantly textured and different from what is normally expected from audiophile IEMs. It's tricky to describe -- separation isn't the Black's forte, but trying to pinpoint certain layers instead gives you just the right amount of everything around it, without a sense of muddling / overcrowding.

    Though the Black doesn't have much air rendered with its intended treble presence, the Black doesn't feel closed in or congested. Soundstage width is consistently average if not slightly narrower, but the excellent layering means that instruments don't need to contest for stage real estate. In other words, the Black holds strong in tracks with complex passages -- in fact, it does very well.​

    Comparison to FIBAE 3
    [​IMG]
    The Black has a more hefty & weighted bass presentation than the FIBAE 3. Even with its single BA driver, Black extends deeper and has greater rumble in the subbass with more apparent texturing. Midbass also slams harder on the Black. Electronic music listeners and bass lovers would appreciate the Black's low-end over the FIBAE 3's leaner tuning, especially with deep-insert tips. Black has a more natural midrange timbre, where the FIBAE 3 is more nasal with an enhanced sense of sharpness. There seems to be a bit of unevenness in the upper midrange of the FIBAE 3, where the Black soars over it in coherency. Black's treble is clearly more subdued when compared to the FIBAE 3, the latter presenting a greater amount of treble sparkle and air. FIBAE 3 has more apparent resolution and improved microdynamics, while Black fares better in macrodynamics. Black is much smoother, and doesn't sound peaky in any way. Black has more intimate imaging but a similar soundstage expansion, giving a more textured and layered sound.

    In summation, the Black has a heavier focus on tonal accuracy, significantly more natural timbre, better dynamics, and more apparent layering; the FIBAE 3 leans towards minute detail retrieval, treble technicality / performance.​

    Conclusion
    This is not your typical reference monitor. The FIBAE Black does something that is a bit difficult to put into words, stepping away from the usual audiophile sound and raising the question -- what makes "reference" actually "required"? When did "neutral" become "necessary"? There are IEMs that may match the Black in detail retrieval, resolution, or extension for slightly less than the Black's asking price, but on the other hand we happen to have an exceptionally non-fatiguing, natural, and coherent tuning with beautiful layering at higher volumes. Bass rumbles well with the quick decay of a balanced-armature for an unusual low-end combination, while higher frequencies remain super smooth for excellent long-term listening.

    As a single balanced-armature IEM retailing for 450 EUR, the Black plays at a bit of an awkward price point -- far above what one would consider entry level, and well below the common flagships. Whether or not the Black is worth it becomes a question of personal preference and expectation. I don't think the Black has flagship technical performance at its price range, but I also don't think that was the intention of Custom Art selecting a single-BA driver as its setup. It takes a step in a different direction, straying away from the classic "more detail" view on audiophilia and finding a different approach to refinement based on pleasing tone and musicality. The Black is not for the critical-listening detail-hound nor the infallible treblehead. It's a thick and moving, robust but not-at-all-slow sound that needs to be heard to be truly understood.​
      F700, davidmolliere, Dsnuts and 12 others like this.
    1. buonassi
      I just wanted to mention how well-written this was. It was very helpful in my decision to order the black. I think I understand what you're talking about with the layering, and how it slots into audiophilia despite lacking the typical technical characteristics. I'm hoping that because of the balanced tonality, resolution won't be a disappointment. It's amazing how much more you can hear when 'masking' is eliminated and you have a very quiet background.
      buonassi, Mar 17, 2019
      scottsays likes this.
    2. scottsays
      Excellent review----my custom Black was delivered today and I have been really enjoying them all afternoon. Agree with your assessment and would recommend the Black to anyone thinking about buying them.
      scottsays, Apr 8, 2019
  3. Wyville
    Custom Art FIBAE Black - Masterful Musicality
    Written by Wyville
    Published May 13, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - A very musical sound that is natural, clean and airy, immersive stage, great build quality, stock cable, Peli 1010 case
    Cons - Perhaps not for those prioritising a technical and revealing signature, less customisation options compared to other Custom Art models
    Custom Art FIBAE Black

    Disclaimer
    I would like to thank Piotr for providing me with the FIBAE Black in exchange for my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favourable review.

    FIBAE Black
    • Drivers: Single proprietary Balanced Armature
    • Frequency response: 10Hz-16000Hz (+-10dB into IEC 60318-4 coupler)
    • Sensitivity: 108.5dB @1kHz @0.1V
    • Impedance: 5.2 Ohm @1kHz (+-0.8 Ohm 10Hz-20kHz)
    • Price: €450

    Links:
    https://thecustomart.com
    https://www.facebook.com/thecustomart/

    Preamble
    A review of Custom Art IEMs... that is where it all started with my reviews and indeed Custom Art IEMs was where it all started for me as an audiophile, so this review feels a little special. I started out in this hobby with the Custom Art Ei.3. I bought those after much deliberation and quite a memorable demo session where I listened to a number of IEMs, but on the way home I could only think of the Ei.3. I simply could not get their sound out of my head. As "engaging" was one of the key criteria for making my decision, I did not waste time to get my impressions done and the order placed. I never regretted that decision and while my hobby spiralled a little bit out of control (*cough*), I still enjoy my Ei.3 tremendously. I think that says a lot about Custom Art's products and that is why I respect them so much as a company. There is something eminently sensible about Custom Art. Not "beige suit and an office job"-sensible, mind, but whenever anyone asks me about where to look for their first (C)IEMs, I always advise them to go and look at Custom Art. In a hobby where prices at the top end are escalating quickly and it is easy to spend as much as you would on a bicycle... oh wait, sorry, that was my other hobby... as you would on a small car, Custom Art offers a much more sensible investment. Not flavour of the month, but excellent value IEMs that ooze musicality, outstanding customer service and an increasingly impressive repertoire of customisation options that you can apply to both their custom and universal IEMs.

    Sensible as they may be, the way I know Custom Art, they always seem to push hard for genuine innovation at that reasonable price point. With FIBAE Black they have come up with something quite special, a single Balanced Armature design that utilises a Helmholtz resonator placed parallel to the spout of the driver. (For those interested, Piotr, the founder of Custom Art, has posted more details of the design on Head-fi.) The design produced significant improvements and caused quite a stir when Custom Art let a number of reviewers do a blind test to gauge their response, especially when the specs and price were revealed afterwards. Some reviewers estimated the price several times higher than it actually was. Well, I would not be much of a reviewer if that did not pique my interest and so I was very excited when I got the opportunity to try out the Black for myself.

    Unboxing
    The FIBAE Black arrived in a nondescript black box that looked a bit like it would contain a very small pair of shoes. Happily that was not the case and instead the box contained a case and another case... That is a lot of cases. Silly word jokes aside, Custom Art deliver their IEMs in one of the best cases available, the Peli 1010, which I love using. I got one with my Ei.3 and use it extensively. It has always been my primary choice when traveling, as my AK70 (with leather case) fits snugly inside and there is still enough room for my Ei.3. Perfect for safe travels around the world! (At least for the gear.) So I am very happy that Custom Art continues to supply these. The other case included is a smaller, softer case for storing the IEMs and putting it in a pocket. Very convenient, although I personally prefer to store my DAP together with my IEMs, but of course far more useful for people who use their IEMs with their phone. Further supplied are a warranty card with the manufacture date on it, a cleaning tool and one of those puck-shaped dehumidifiers. And because these are universal IEMs, a set of tips with three different sizes regular silicone tips and one set of double flange tips.

    IMAGE_01.JPG
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    Of course let's not forget about the FIBAE Black themselves.

    Build quality and fit
    The Black were developed with 3D printing technology in mind and the universal shells have an updated shape compared to the universal shells of the Ei.3 that I have. (In case you are wondering, I had my CIEMs reshelled to universal. Another quite unique service Custom Art provides.) It is a less curved shape with more flat surfaces, while the overall build quality feels much the same, which is very solid. I have always used my Ei.3 as my travel IEMs because I trust their build quality more than any of my other IEMs and the Black fall in the same category. Excellent build quality.

    IMAGE_04.JPG
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    The updated shape is a really noticeable improvement for me. While my Ei.3 have been extremely comfortable, I have always found it tricky to get an ideal fit with them and I kept switching tips because of it. Some would be comfortable but not sound optimal, while others sounded optimal but were too uncomfortable for long listening sessions. With the Black I have had no such issues while using the supplied double flange tips, although I might well switch those over to regular tips at some point for the sake of convenience (more on the double flange tips later on).

    IMAGE_07.JPG

    The Black are also supplied with an updated cable. I can't show you the previous stock cable that came with my Ei.3 because I ritually burned it and buried the ashes in an abandoned mine that is regularly checked by an exorcist. I hated it with a passion and when I saw the new cable chills went down my spine... Memory wire. Evil, evil memory wire. I could see it plotting to start chewing my ears as soon as I would start listening to the Black. Happily, despite the memory wire I have had few issues with it. Dare I say? I quite like the cable. It is a very supple cable based on Silver Plated Copper (SPC) wires and it is light, thin and thoroughly ergonomic. All right it still has memory wire, but at least I do not have to resort to pushing those straight up like antennas to avoid them touching my ears. I also love the simplistic plastic y-split and slider, they are just so light and utterly functional. Despite my addiction to expensive aftermarket cables, I grudgingly admit that the best y-splits and sliders I have used are either a heat shrink for the y-split and no slider or these two simple plastic discs. Okay, I feel dirty now admitting to all that and I need a shower.

    Source
    I have tried a number of sources and find that the Black will sound great with pretty much any source, but they also scale quite nicely with a better source. From a phone, in my case the Sony XA2, I felt the Black were driven perfectly well. Moving onto an entry level DAP such as the Shanling M0 expands the stage slightly, improves the dynamics, gets a better bass response (tighter, more extended) and improved clarity. Similar improvements can be found again by moving up to the M0's bigger brother the Shanling M2X. My AK70 (mkI) adds more of the same, but also provides a little smoother sound and transparency seems a bit better as well. My main DAP for reviewing these days is the Cowon Plenue 2 (mkI) and that feels like a step up again with a really holographic feeling stage, great depth and a dynamic feel to the Black. It is not a night and day difference because even with the XA2 the Black sound great, but it is noticeable enough that if you have a better source available, you might like to use that. For convenience sake, I expect most people will be perfectly happy with their phone.

    As indicated my main reviewing DAP is the Plenue 2 and all impressions were made with it on high gain without any EQ.

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    Presentation
    Important here to note is that I have used the double flange tips supplied by Custom Art. From my experience with the Ei.3, which I had as customs and had reshelled to universals, I feel those tips achieve the closest sound to that of the customs. They are always tricky to fit right, but I found it easier to do with the Black due to the updated shell design.

    The Black offer a slightly warmish and smooth sound that is thoroughly engaging. Indeed, I think engagement is one of, if not the main strength of the Black. It is instant and as far as I have tried works with every type of music. Perhaps it is because the Black compliment my preferences really well, but they always pull me into the music where I am compelled to tap my feet, wiggle my bum or pretend that I know how to conduct a symphony orchestra by flailing my arms around wildly. One of the aspects I feel contributes to this is the stage and the way in which it wraps around my head. The stage straddles a fine line between spacious and intimate, not because of the width, but because the stereo imaging is quite strong and sounds can at times feel like coming from behind my ears. This gives two different impressions of the stage. If there is a panning sound from left to right, the distance the sound travels along the curved stage is quite large, giving the feeling of a very spacious stage that is further emphasised by the clean and airy character of the Black. When I listen to band music the stage becomes more intimate because instruments are at fixed positions at quite close proximity to my head. This wrapped stage also gives a good sense of depth that is further strengthened by excellent layering and positioning. The image is stable and background blackness is excellent. Notes are full and I feel their transient response is not the quickest, there is a mellow smoothness to the Black that gives them a very forgiving and fatigue free character. For instance, they sound great with my soundtrack album of the Australian detective series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, which is full of older jazz recordings that feel like the producers lacked the budget for any form of remastering. I can listen to those all day and not have a hint of fatigue.

    Another strength of the Black is their coherency and sense of intimacy. It is not always perfect, as I sometimes think that vocals come too far forward and separate a little from the instruments. Most of the time though it works very well and the forward vocals add a genuine sense of intimacy. Like Agnes Obel? The Black will have her sweet voice whisper the words in your ears. Most of all I feel the Black provide a sound where I won't easily feel like I am missing out. Sure, critical listening might expose the slower transient response, perhaps not the greatest transparency or detail retrieval, but even back-to-back with my TOTL IEMs I thoroughly enjoy the music. Everything about the Black is balanced really well to be musical above all else, and there the Black score full marks even against the most expensive IEMs I have. While working on this review I had a genuine hard time focusing on the technical aspects, as I kept drifting away in the music and forgetting I was supposed to write this review.

    Bass
    The Black have a warm character with a slightly lifted bass that is quite natural and exciting. The bass does not reach very deep and sub-bass rumble is moderate, while the mid-bass kick is much more clearly present after which the upper-bass is somewhat tempered to add warmth, but not too much.

    The bass has a familiar characteristic I know of the Ei.3, as a pacesetter within the signature, adding excitement and a sense of speed. Despite what I feel is a slightly more mellow character overall, the bass is quick and agile. Great examples of this are the speed of the drums in Device's rendition of Wish and Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running) by the Foo Fighters, where the tracks gain a lot of their excitement from fast and tight drums that come through very well with the Black.

    Despite the noticeable mid-bass kick, the Black do a good job in avoiding becoming too warm and full sounding. There is a very nice balance in the amount of warm air that is added to the signature, enough to feel smooth and easy going, but not so much that it starts to feel stuffy. I love listening to the Rolling Stones with the Black, as its so musical and has a hint of smoke-filled bar to it without it feeling like I am sitting among a crowd of chain smokers. With classical music too I feel that there is a lovely weight to instruments such as the cello, but it is not the really thick and resonant sound that I have heard with some IEMs. The Black do not sit in bass head territory, but still have an impactful and exciting bass that in my opinion fulfils a key role in the musical character of the Black.

    Mids
    The mids of the Black are warm-natural with a very nice thickness to the notes. It is on the thicker side of neutral, which I like because I feel it is more natural, and yet the Black avoid becoming too lush. If you are used to more neutral/reference type IEMs, then the Black's mids will sound quite thick at first, but in that case I would advise to give it a bit more time so you can adjust. It is a really nice, easy-going balance that again sits firmly on the musical side of things where notes flow, rather than sit isolated.

    As I indicated before vocals are really quite forward and in some cases it is a little too forward in my opinion. Where I mostly love listening to Agnes Obel, the track Pass Them By on her album Aventine is a good example of where it becomes too much. Agnes' vocals sit quite far to the left and it is as if she has pulled up a chair just so she can sing directly into my ear. I like you Agnes, really I do, but I am a married man. Still, overall vocals are a joy and I find the balance between male and female vocals really well done. There is a slight sweetness to female vocals, but in complex and layered choral pieces such as Bach's Cantata #140 or Magnificat I find that vocals are balanced really well and not a single one overpowers another, which results in a wonderfully natural merging of the choir as more and more voices come in.

    Because notes are a little thicker, I find instruments have a lovely fullness to them and I love how, for instance, the piano sounds. It might be a hint warmer than strictly neutral, but that fits with the mellow character of the Black. So when Agnes has shifted her chair a little bit further back and she starts singing Brother Sparrow, everything comes together much better with the accompanying piano and guitar. Now it becomes a more romantic setting where there is no longer an imminent danger of my wife accidentally hitting Agnes over the head with the champagne bottle. The Black do these types of intimate settings really well and I love that.

    Treble
    The treble of the Black is quite well extended and a little bit attenuated. It helps to create a natural, easy-going signature where there is still a healthy amount of air between instruments.

    I feel it is very well balanced with the bass, although certainly not the most sparkly or lively treble you will come across. It is as inoffensive as you will find it in any IEMs, but there is still enough sparkle to ensure things don't get too boring. Cymbals sound quite good and realistic, although they are sitting a bit further back, being polite for the benefit of the more treble sensitive audiophiles among us. There is still a little bit of a bite to them that I feel benefits the texture of strings as well, something that is quite noticeable in the texture of guitar strings and why I feel the Black do very well for acoustic music, Blues and Jazz. There is a realistic feeling to strings such as in the Rolling Stones' I Can't Quite You Baby, which sounds great.

    The treble extension creates a reasonably clean and quite airy stage, more than I would expect with a signature that is warm and smooth, and I think it is a quite unique aspect of the Black's tuning.

    Aftermarket cables
    While I might have (reluctantly) admitted that the stock cable is really good, I did try out a few aftermarket cables to see what changes those might bring. Listening was done either through the 3.5mm Single Ended (SE) out or from the 2.5mm balanced (Bal) out.

    -Effect Audio Ares II (SE)-
    This is always the first aftermarket cable I try because it is a very high quality cable with great ergonomics without going too silly on the fancy metals.

    Ares II makes the Black even smoother, reducing the speed and impact of the bass a little and some of the sparkle in the treble. It adds a hint of warmth to the sound that I feel does not benefit the clean and airy stage. My guess is that the pure copper Ares II lacks some of the characteristics of the SPC stock cable that benefit the Black.

    -PlusSound Exo Silver+Gold (Bal)-
    Because it was not the first time that I replaced a stock SPC with Ares II and found it lacking, I turned to the cable that did work back then, the PlusSound Exo Silver+Gold.

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    The Exo makes the Black a little cleaner and more airy while maintaining the coherency of the Black with stock cable. (Some of that will come from the balanced connection.) The Black become a hint brighter in their overall tonality, but in a very pleasant way. The bass remains quick, agile and impactful, the treble remains smooth and inoffensive, while vocals are pushed a hint further back. One thing I noticed especially was that this pairing showed off how well the Black do reverb. Listening to some Hildegard of Bingen is a wonderful experience, as on top of the excellent vocals, the reverb of the church comes through exceptionally well. Bach's Magnificat had the same thing and felt more liquid than with the stock cable, making it even more engaging to listen to. Switching back to the Stones I felt nothing was lost there either. A great pairing that I expected might become permanent until the Exo's cousin came round.

    -PlusSound X-Series GPC (SE)-
    Credit to the stock cable, but you have been beaten on all fronts. The PlusSound X-Series is the most ergonomic cable I have tried to date and it has a wonderfully small y-split, a little heat shrink as slider, it is light, incredibly supple and pairs really well with the Black.

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    This X-Series is the Gold Plated Copper and it turns up the engagement another notch. The bass gets a powerful boost to become more impactful without loosing speed and the treble get a little bit of extra sparkle. The mids remain natural and clean, and maintain the quite forward vocals. Most importantly, I feel that this pairing stays close to the stock cable in the way the overall sound feels to me. Transparency is improved a little and the reverb is once again revealed as excellent. What I noticed with this pairing especially is how the Black make some music sound more like a live performance, especially music like the Rolling Stones or Santana. The amount of raw power that the Black are capable of is also quite noticeable with this pairing. Device's track Penance sounds absolutely amazing.

    Comparisons
    -Custom Art Ei.3-
    Although the Ei.3 have been discontinued, I still wanted to include a brief comparison here because I think it is a great way to illustrate how far Custom Art have come and how much of an improvement the Black are.

    Using these two back-to-back immediately shows off the improvements in the shell design and I find the Black to have a much better fit for my ears.

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    In terms of sound I feel the two are related and although I have not seen Piotr mention it, I would not be surprised if the Black are in some way the spiritual successor of the Ei.3. Both offer an extremely musical and engaging signature with a quick and agile bass, natural mids and smooth treble. My Ei.3 have always been my preferred choice for listening while cooking, which is when I look for a sound that makes me want to dance. The Black have that same characteristic where I just forget about everything and get lost in the music while chopping away at the vegetables.

    In nearly every other way the two are different in the sense that the Black feel like a much matured version of the Ei.3. The Black have a warmer, thicker sound that feels much more natural. The Black have better extension at both ends, a much blacker background, higher resolution, improved transparency, a better dynamic range, and really they sound to me like they are from a completely different price range, even though the difference is quite modest. Hearing these two back-to-back really drives home just how innovative Custom Art have been with the Black because it is a very significant improvement.

    Conclusions
    What can I say about the Custom Art FIBAE Black. These IEMs are impressive, very impressive for the price. Their laid-back character might not suit everyone, especially those people looking for a technical and detailed signature, but for those of us who prefer a natural and smooth, yet incredibly musical signature, the Black compete with the very best out there regardless of price. At their price point of €450 they offer outstanding value and will make for a great investment because I don't think this sound will ever get boring.
      davidcotton, akared, Pepito and 6 others like this.
    1. F700
      Thanks. Ordered. Will go with my Dethonray DTR1 DAP...
      F700, May 18, 2019
      Wyville likes this.
  4. Zelda
    Custom Art - FIBAE Black
    Written by Zelda
    Published Apr 15, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Build quality
    Comfortable universal design
    Sound quality: Very nice midrange centered tuning, strong bass, smooth treble.
    Resolution, speed, accuracy.
    Beautiful artwork
    Cons - Customization is limited to only faceplates
    Ear tips selection (universal version)
    Smooth, forgiving treble may not suit to everyone
    Review - Custom Art - FIBAE Black

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    Website - Custom Art


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    The FIBAE Black page

    The Flat Impedance Balanced Armature Earphone (FIBAE) technology


    Specifications
    • Single proprietary Balanced Armature
    • Pressure Optimizing Design (P.O.D.)
    • Flat Impedance technology (FIBAE)
    • 108.5dB @1kHz @0.1V
    • 5.2 Ohm @1kHz (+-0.8 Ohm 10Hz-20kHz)
    • Low % THD
    • 10-16000 Hz (+-10dB into IEC 60318-4 coupler)
    • 3D printed acrylic shell

    Available in Custom or Universal fit.


    Price: Starting from €450.
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    The FIBAE Black arrives in a very simple and plain black carton box with no info on the outside. Inside there is a Pelican 1010 Micro case where the earphones are securely stored, an extra small zipper case, a wax cleaning pick tool, drying pellet, and for the universal version, 4 sets of silicone tips, 3 single flanges and 1 double flange. The box is definitely nothing inspiring and you may find a more premium unboxing presentation on much affordable universal IEMs; still, it is just a box so nothing to care much about as long as package arrives safely to the customer. However, for a universal fit model, a wider and better array of ear tips could have been included, especially when the different tips can play a critical role not just in fit or comfort but mainly in giving the optimal sonic results.

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    Design

    The shells on the universal Custom Art models are now 3D printed. They are made of acrylic material like the custom versions and previous universal fit which I have on the Fibae 3 since last year. Build quality is very good as what plastic materials go; the shells are thick and look solid enough. Also, despite the 3D printing the finish is very nice and smooth. These are on a higher level in terms of quality and finish over something like the Brainwavz 3D printed IEMs, which is logical considering the price difference.

    The shape still resembles that of a custom IEM but compared to the previous Custom Art universal they have now a more standard fit as a universal. The universal Fibae 3 has a more custom-like rounded shape on the inner part that sit more ergonomically on the ear area, while the Black is flatter with wider nozzle base. The change of the nozzle is a noticeable improvement as it now holds better the different ear tips giving more flexibility when doing some essential tip rolling for best sound results.

    As for the shell customization options, the Black IEM series, both universal and custom, are limited to a black color inner part so only the outer faceplate design is open to the customers' preference. Nevertheless, the all piano black theme looks very cool and there are nice faceplate options to choose from the Custom Art site or use a personal artwork. I only chose the artwork and let the color options to the company team to decide and should say they made a very nice design. It is hard to get in on a photo but on a close look you may see there is some depth within the artwork and color design.

    Fit is very natural as for over-ear wearing style and with the nozzle length and right tips the Fibae Black provides a deep fit into the ear canal. Depending on the ear tips used the fit can be flush with a low profile around the ears. Comfort is excellent too and the seal is usually very good. However, getting the best tips is very important here, not only for best fit but more for optimal sound results. Personally, I had to discard the included ones and opted for wider dual flange silicone tips and also the Dunu/Sony tips (aka 'hybrids'); Spinfit work too if you can find the new shorter versions. Like with the Fibae 3, the isolation is also very good being a sealed shell and an ergonomic shape that fills a wide area of the outer ear.

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    The cable is a new one with silver-plated copper wire. It is a nice improvement over the previous cables used on Custom Art earphones that were the standard ones found on different CIEM manufactures with three twisted strands on the lower half and two on the right and left sides. Instead, the cable is made of two separated strands from the jack up to the 2-pin connectors, stick together on the lower half and then divided to each channel. On a closer look each strand holds two thin wires that are softly twisted and well covered by the outer cable sheath. The cable itself is more comfortable to use and holds very low noise. It is terminated in a standard 3.5mm stereo angled plug with a round y-split and similar round piece that acts as slider, and on the top, there is a fixed memory wire. For the universal fit it is only possible to choose a 2-pin connection (0.78mm), with or without remote, while the custom fit allows MMCX plugs. 2-pin is still the more recommended option for detachable cables as they prove to be more durable and reliable over the time.

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    Sound Quality

    Main gears used:
    Custom Art Fibae 3, iBasso IT04, FLC 8N, Dunu DK-3001, final E5000.
    iBasso DX120, HiBy R6 Pro, Fiio M6, Lotoo Pico.


    For the new model Custom Art opted for a single Balanced Armature, which can sound surprising with all the multi BA and hybrids IEMs that are so popular and get so much attention nowadays. However, multi drivers' sets are not always safe from having known issues on impedance, drivers' mismatch and coherence, crossover, etc. That's no to say that single drivers are a better option, especially when referring to a small single armature driver for a full range frequency response as there're limitations in extension and power.

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    Nonetheless, here with the Fibae Black, Custom Art really made an excellent work and the Black IEM not only holds the strengths of a single BA unit but is also capable to compete with multi drivers sets with a well extended and very full sound presentation. The sound is nothing to be called neutral, linear or reference tuned, and probably won't be referring to it as completely 'balanced'. Rather, it is colored with a bit midrange forward presentation which is very rich, smooth, engaging and very musical. As the name might suggest, the Black has a slightly dark and warm overall tonality with a full bass response, well weighted notes, laid-back highs and yet a still solid strong detail retrieval and accuracy typical of a good sounding armature driver.

    The bass strikes with a strong impact and quite surprising for a single balanced armature. It is full bodied and well textured with a bit more emphasis on the mid and upper region but still capable of showing an impressive sub-bass reach. Quantity is definitely more than just 'north of neutral' though still won't deliver a true heavy-bass amount; it doesn't seem to be due the driver limitations but rather the own tuning of the IEM. In fact, the is plenty bass in quantity and power rivaling some good sounding hybrids and multi-BA sets, and just falls a tad short in pure sub-bass extension and sheer rumble. Quality is just as good, showing the usual capabilities of a balanced armature on speed, control, accuracy and detail. The Fibae Black is not aggressive but it is fast in attack with very natural decay. It is well balanced between sub and mid-bass response, well defined and very good in dynamics and layering.

    The midrange is still the main focus on the Fibae Black. The bass transition to the lower mids is linear and smooth leaving a very clean response. The midrange balance is well done, though it usually goes a little bit more towards the lower mids (some tips may help to adjust this a bit, though). The mid-centered tuning holds a warm tonality with a fluid and very rich texture. It is sweet and articulated with a very strong sense of musicality that sounds so immersive. The separation is neat and instruments are presented with good weight and coherent positioning; the preference still goes to lower instruments that sound fuller as the upper ones are smoother and more laid-back in nature. The midrange is not to be called 'transparent' on the Black, though it does show a subtle technical transparency when paired with different sources. A warmer player will give a thicker lower midrange and even darker tonality overall to the point of sounding more off and veiled, but if paired with a brighter or detailed oriented source then the midrange gains a better balance with more engaging and energetic upper midrange. Vocals are particularly very nice on the Fibae Black, a bit more forward on the whole presentation leaving instruments on a half plane behind, very sweet and full bodied. They are very articulated, not too thick as to blur the sound but yes have a delicate and beautiful texture with nothing of sibilance to be found on them.

    The treble is more laid-back and completely smooth with no peaks that could be noticed. The extension is still very decent without a serious early roll-off. While the tonality is a tad dark there is still good quality on the highs. The detail is present and not difficult to perceive, it is just not too forward to catch the listener's attention. If there is some energy then it is more present on the lower treble region, but overall sparkle is moderate in amount; guitars definitely have more bite and cymbals more crash and light than what the Fibae Black IEM can show. There is some air missing too, though doesn't sound particularly congested and it always remains inoffensive, relaxed and very forgiving.

    Despite the mid-centered signature the presentation is larger than average and very coherent. While it tends to put vocals on the front stage it is not missing in stage dimensions. With a center image it is well rounded and also quite spacious. It doesn't have a too sharp right and left distance and won't sound too open and airy, but it shows good depth and very decent width. However, where the Black IEM truly stands is in resolution, and it is higher than the price would suggest, not just for a single BA, but simply as an in-ear monitor set. Cannot say it can rival top tier universal IEMs at $1K+ range, not because it couldn't but simply because I yet have to listen to some of those to give a fair comparison, but it the Fibae Black is quite remarkable. It surely sounds too good resembling more a large dynamic driver than just a small micro driver.


    Comparisons:

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    Custom Art Fibae 3

    A comparison versus another IEM from Custom Art like the Fibae 3 wouldn't make much sense, simply because they were both tuned completely different, but just should be mentioned as another offer from the company. The Fibae 3 which I had for around a year (and on the previous universal shell) carries a three BA drivers' configuration with a more treble and high detail oriented tuning. The Fibae 3 sound is more spacious, open and airier with impressive micro detail and high treble control. The bass is much lighter in body without the mass and impact the darker Black offers. Soundstage is wider on the Fibae 3 when paired with a higher player like the Hiby R6 Pro, while the Black hits with more depth and massive bass impact. The midrange detail goes for the Fibae 3 that sounds more effortless too, but in musical presentation the Black wins with a much fuller and sweeter texture, excelling in the vocals performance. They both still share some transparency when pairing with different sources, though the Black is more forgiving, while the Fibae 3 can be more picky, especially on the treble performance requiring a more resolving DAP to truly shine, like the iBasso DX120 or Hiby R6 Pro.

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    iBasso IT04

    On the other hand, a more relevant comparison should be against the iBasso IT04. Yes, it is a single balanced armature versus a 4-driver hybrid IEM which contains a large 10mm dynamic graphene driver and 3 BA Knowles units, and even so the Fibae Black holds its ground pretty well and shines in certain areas over the IT04 (while the IT04 still has its own strengths).

    Before the sound comparison, in terms of design both are made of plastic materials though seem to be of different type. Build quality appears to be close, although it's hard to comment on durability for the Fibae Black after roughly a month of use versus the IT04 which already has more than half a year of regular listening. On the shape of the shells they are much different for universal models; the IT04 with is large and very custom-like form factor, while the new Fibae shell has now a more universal fit. This is also reflected in fit and comfort as the IT04 can be a bit of a challenge for smaller ears to achieve the best fit and can still present some comfort issues after some use. The Fibae is not just more compact but also offers a more relaxed yet secure fit with a similar level of isolation.

    Now, as for the sound, in pure quality both sets perform at a similar level for what could be called 'mid-tier' category. Bass is similar, both having a strong presence and powerful impact, great layering and dynamics. The IT04 with the graphene driver used for lows is more even between sub and mid-bass, while the Fibae gives a slight more emphasis in mid-bass kick. As could be expected for a balance armature, speed goes for the Fibae with faster attack and more precision, and while extension is surprisingly very close, the IT04 may handle a little more reach and bit more natural, slower decay (and mainly if used in balanced mode). Lower midrange is very similar both having a full and bit thick texture with some warm tonality, but they differ more in upper midrange where the Fibae remains very smooth and rich, and the iBasso is more neutral and brighter. Vocals are a sweeter and more forward on the Fibae and the IT04 has more balance and air with sharper instruments separation; more energy on upper instruments and more edgy female vocals, but also leaner next to the Fibae. Treble remains always smooth and rather linear on the Fibae Black, very inoffensive in next to the extra energy and crispiness the IT04 offers. While detail is more obvious due the more treble presence of the IT04, the more laid-back Black IEM is capable to show a same quality if not a bit more of detail. Extension is technically very similar, and regardless the IT04 having a dedicated BA unit (single or dual), the resolution is still higher on the Fibae with a more coherent centered image, even just from its standard 3.5mm cable over the 2.5mm balanced sound of the iBasso, and that says a lot.

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    Value

    The Custom Art FIBAE Black turns out to be a very capable in-ear monitor. The new 3D printed shells are well built and prove to be very ergonomic, comfortable for long listening times and also well isolating for everyday use. If there is anything to point out on the design it would just be the limited customization to faceplates alone, and even that is being too picky only because it arrives from a custom-IEM company. You still get the all piano black shell which looks rather classy and beautiful artwork designs to choose. The ear tips selection is too minimal and the included ones may not bring the best sound out of the earphones, so be ready to get some extra.

    In terms of sound it is quite impressive. The small single armature driver inside tuned with a slight mid-centered signature is also powerful, engaging and very musical, yet accurate, fast and precise. The final tuning may not appeal to everyone as it goes very smooth and forgiving; those looking for pure detail and more energy should consider the triple driver Fibae 3 as an option. However, the midrange is very sweet and immersive, and the resolution is really good for the price.

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  5. suman134
    The One and only - Black
    Written by suman134
    Published Aug 30, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Very good bass quality, Fantastic vocals and timber, very good details. Fantastic fitting.
    Cons - Treble lacks a bit of spark and extension.
    INTRO:-

    Flat Impedance Balanced Armature Earphone, Fibae. This is what Fibae Stands for.

    I don’t think there is anyone in this world of audiophiles who are not aware of the Polish giant Custom Art's Fibae series of earphones. Known for their level of precision with BA based earphone, they make some of the most evolved and refined sounding earphones in the industry. Their earphones range from single BA Fibae 1 at $350 to 8 BA Harmony 8.2 for $1250.

    In their pursuit to achieve most out of minimal resources they came up with the magnificent Fibae Black. Even though the Fibae Black has a single BA driver to work around. This single BA based earphone utilizes pressure optimizing design with their flat impedance design to extract the best out of the limited resources and man!! does it succeeds..

    The Fibae Black has a starting price of at around $510 or 450 Euros, it comes in both custom and universal trim. the universal trim comes with only black color option.

    I would like to thank Custom Art for this review unit.

    You can place your order here, in both universal and custom trims.

    https://thecustomart.com/shop/acrylic-products/fibae-black/

    ACCESSORIES & PACKAGING:-

    It has the exactly same set of accessories as the Fibae 3.

    The Fibae Black comes in a gift box style Box with two carry cases inside it. One is a hard sided zipper case to keep the earphone when not on the move, the other one, a Pelican 1010 case, meant for travel use which will keep the earphone safe under unfavorable circumstances.

    There are 3 pair of tips inside a small tips case in S/M/L sizes and a pair of double flange tip. Dehumidifier, wax pick tool and the welcome document sums up the list of things out of the box.

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    BUILD QUALITY:-

    The Fibae Black has 3D printed acrylic shell.

    Just like every other Custom art earphone, the build quality of the Fibae black is outstanding, it has a slightly bigger body compared to the Fibae 3 and it feels a bit more stable in the ear too.

    There are many customization options available, some are with extra cost, you can chose different cables and one with Mic too. There is option to have the Fibae Black with MMCX connectors too, in case you don’t like the more secure feeling of the 2pin design. The Acrylic shell is very sturdy, the back plate fusion is flawless and unless you decide to drop the earpieces on solid floor (deliberately trying to break them). There is only one bore in side.

    There is no vent in the shell, a BA don’t need one at all. The nozzle has nice depth to it and its very easy to change tips.

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    CABLE:-

    Finally the cable has changed, finally. In one of my videos on YouTube I had pointed out that 3 brands, one from china and two from Poland (one is custom art) use the exactly same cable, which can be bought for $20 max. I am not saying that cable was bad, but for a premium looking earphone a not so attractive cable doesn’t do much justice.

    Talking about the new cable, it looks very good, the clear layer of rubber looks more premium compared to older one. Yes the new cable is marginally more bouncy, slightly less supple and a bit more microphonics but it looks more premium and up to the class. The crystal clear Y splitter and cable slider give the Fibae Black more character.

    To be honest, this new cable is supple enough, it doesn’t have much memory either and tangling is only induced by the metal inserted cable guides.

    You can opt for cable with Mic if you want to use it with mobile devices, I am not sure what type of cable that is.

    IMG_20190829_174701.jpg

    COMFORT, ERGONOMICS AND SEAL :-

    All of their custom earphones have very good fitment with plenty of customization. Their universal earphones, like the one I am reviewing too have a very comfortable feel to them.

    It is exceptionally comfortable for a $500 earphone, many other earphone in this price range have bigger footprint. The smaller size, and ergonomically design makes it a very comfortable earphone for everyone. Another thing which helps is the weight, which is very light thanks to light weight shell material.

    the Fibae Black has an aptly deep nozzle making it more stable and secure. Fibae Black fits like a dream inside my ears. One of the most comfortable earphone in this price range. No bothering edges at all.

    CAUTION:- don’t use earphones where you have to be aware of your surroundings like driving and walking on the road, stay home and enjoy your music or at gym.

    SOUND QUALITY:-

    The Fibae Black is tuned for the both sides of the audiophile world. An audio enthusiast, a stage artist and a mastering artist will admire the Fibae Black equally. It delivers delicacies of music without going too hard at them, without peaks or sibilance of any type, with a soothing approach delivering a very clear and true to the nature tonality.

    In their words the Fibae Black is:-

    "Designed as a statement, breaking rules and going against the current. With only single Balanced Armature FIBAE Black produces sound unmatched by any IEM within its class and above. Pressure Optimizing Design allows for extremely precise control of frequency response, improving soundstage and separation capabilities, without issues arising from crossovers or multi-driver constructions.

    Natural smooth sound with fast-paced deep bass, forward mids and smooth extended highs. Tuned for correct tone and enjoyment without sacrificing extension on both ends. It’s one of our most versatile IEM yet combining musicality and precision. FIBAE Black is the perfect choice for daily use."

    There is little to no coloration and the signature is very neutral, just like the Fibae 3, but the notes have slightly better weight and depth to them making it more enjoyable. It has a very flat spectrum too, more even compared to the Fibae 3.

    the Fibae Black is properly burned for 120hrs I am using stock tips, Plenue R and Plenue D for this review.

    IMG_20190829_174217.jpg

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    IMG_20190829_173726.jpg

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    TECHNICALITY AND MATCHABILITY:-

    The Fibae Black is very easy to drive out of any portable device without much problem, even when using some capable mobile phones, you will still be able to get most out of it, but a dedicated dap will always bring out the best of it. 108.5db sensitivity means it can get very loud too. Amping is not necessary but if you have one, you can use one and you will find a bit more energy up top.

    Given that the 5.2ohm impedance value, its prescribed to use a low output impedance source.

    BASS:-

    The Fibae Black relies on its only BA driver to do the heavy lifting, and it delivers without any problems. It doesn’t have a typical BA type bass one can experience with earphones like the ER-4P and Q-jay. The body and impact size is very good, far more respectable when compared to the flatter ones. It definitely is not in the line with the bassier ones like the EE bravado, Black's bass has slightly smaller body than the Shozy Pentacle I reviewed very recently.

    If the Fibae 3 was riding on the sub-bass power, the Fibae black rides on a more fuller and full bodied bass size. The Fibae Black has bigger bass size from every perspective compared to the Fibae 3. It deliver equally good sub-bass impact and extension but has bigger slam and moves more air. If a single BA can do this.. Why was the Fibae was unable to do this, maybe because of the different tech implementation. Be informed that the Fibaes I am talking about here are some of the best earphone when it comes to sub-bass extension. The Fibae black has better sub-bass extension when compared to the 64audio U3, Nocturnal Avalon and even slightly better than the Pola.

    It goes as deep as 20hz, it delivers better sub-bass compared to most in this price. The Decay is fast, marginally slower than the ER-4P or the q-jays, slightly slower decay gives notes a bit more weight and authority as they make their presence felt. It has better precipitation compared to the flatter ones.

    The Amount of control and composure shown by the Fibae Black is class leading. It has one of the most polished and matured bass presentation I have seen. There is no jitteriness to it. And the amount of details and precision shown by this single BA based earphone is praise worthy. The Fibae 3 has slightly slower decay, the Black has rectified that with a better decay speed, it feels more accurate now.

    Mid bass is as fast as the sub-bass, it maintains very good tempo, it has equally good depth, it make its present felt with good amount of air, the upper bass to maintains good amount of energy exhibiting good control.

    There is no sacrifices made when it comes to the balance between presence of bass and the level of details it delivers. The level of accuracy, resolution and amount of resolving details is up to class. The amount of balance exhibited across the bass spectrum by the Black is admirable.

    MID RANGE:-

    the upper bass nicely blends into the lower mid range. There is very good amount of energy there. It is one of the most mature transaction even for $500. Earphones tend to get shaky there, custom art has been very good in this region. It sounds more forward and a bit fuller when compared to the Fibae 3. The whole mid range has very good smoothness and presentation to it. It doesn’t have any type of discomfort to it, in fact the Fibae black is one of the most pleasant sounding earphone when it comes to mid range. Notes have a slightly warm feel to them thanks to the thicker and marginally slower decay, they give the Fibae black's mid range plenty of body.

    The vocals are as musical as they get, they have exceptional texture to them, it sounds very much like a dynamic driver, notes have fantastic body, they sound very detailed and male vocals excels with a very throaty and textured feel to them. One of the richest vocal notes with a very polished notes finishing to them. Female vocals sound equally impressive, they have very good amount of detail to them, it's just sublime.

    The instruments too have very good amount of details to them, but guess what.. this is where the Fibae Black lacks a bit of bite, it just want to pamper you with its lovable tonality and presentation. Others with more drivers does better with super fine details and transparency. Something like the NOC Avalon churns out more details in expense of tonality and smoothness. Upper mid lacks a bit or energy compared to the vocal region. It still has very good amount of energy with the instruments.

    The level of layering, instrument accuracy and separation is up to the class but I have seen better, it can be more cleaner. The Fibae Black has more rounded stage size compared to the Fibae 3, the fibae 3 has a conical feel to it, the Fibae Black equally complimenting width depth and height, it still is slightly deeper than wider or taller but its more even. the stage size is very good, in the ballpark of 64audi U3.

    HIGHS:-

    The transaction from upper mid to lower treble is smooth with no spike of any type. There is good amount of energy there which holds true for the mid treble region too. There is good amount of spark and energy to them. From there the problem of having a single driver starts to show. The treble extension is above average but it starts losing energy after around 11k. It doesn’t feel as endless as the Fibae 3. It still is very good, just not Fibae 3 good.

    Treble is the weakest point of the Fibae Black, no doubt there, but it still has very good layering and separation. Instrument placing is very good with good amount of air in between. With the bigger than average stage size, the presentation is delightful and fatigue free. The resolution and imaging is up to the class too.

    The spectrum wide width to notes thickness catches up to treble too, the thickness results in to hair slower decay. That thickness does wonders for bass and mid range but it doesn’t work wonders for treble region as it makes the notes slightly blunt. They don’t feel as sharp or as transparent as most earphones in this price range. By doing this they definitely have got rid of any type of sibilance though.

    There is very good amount of details but it lacks some super fine details.

    COMPARISION:-

    VS Shozy Pentacle :-

    The pentacle has similar sound signature but the notes are slightly shallower and lack a bit of sharpness. Both have similar bass body and air but the Black feels more involving. Mid range is slightly less attacking and is not as cohesive as the black. Treble of the Pentacle has slightly better extension and energy. Stage size is slightly smaller but is decent.

    The Fibae Black feels more engaging and Technically better.


    VS Fibae 3 and Eternal Melody EM-5H:-




    IMG_20190829_175229.jpg

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    CONCLUSION:-

    Magnificent, yes that is the word for the Fibae Black, there are no two ways about it, it is one of the most versatile and efficient earphone I have ever come across. What it delivers is just outstanding, nothing is really comparable to the Fibae Black except the other Fibaes like the Fibae 3.

    The Tonality and timber is just exceptional, it is very light still heavy, it doesnt bite still the impression is not easy to forget. The bass notes are fantastic, mid range has very good amount of details, vocals are one of the best, treble is slightly lacking, but when you look at the whole picture, the lack of treble extension is dwarfed in front the strong points.

    The Fibae Black is a one of its kind earphone.

    You can't buy the Fibae Black for the sheer amount of details, it is not a studio tool, it is more tuned for enjoying the music. It still have very good amount of details and clarity though.

    If you want to enjoy your music without being very critical about it, go for the Fibae Black, you will not regret a bit.

    That’s it here, enjoy your music. Cheers.

    images

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      F700 likes this.
    1. F700
      Universal Fit are not coming in Black only.

      I asked the question directly, here is the answer:
      Yes, you can still choose faceplates, artworks (logos) and cable - only shell and canals need to be Black Solid.

      Currently FIBAE Black universal are produced in 1-2 weeks after receiving your order and payment.
      F700, Sep 4, 2019
      suman134 likes this.
  6. ezekiel77
    Custom Art FIBAE Black – Into The Rapturous Night
    Written by ezekiel77
    Published Aug 22, 2019
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Exquisite build quality
    - Included Pelican 1010 case
    - Superb fit and comfort
    - Excellent isolation
    - Consistent sound throughout audio sources
    - Warm, relaxed sound signature
    - Well-executed midbass bloom
    - Marvelous mids tuning
    - Natural timbre and tone
    Cons - Does not play well with fast-tempo genres
    - End-to-end extension
    - Weak sub-bass
    - Subdued upper mids
    - Shelved treble hinders excitement
    - Compact soundstage
    - Average imaging capability
    The FIBAE Black is a custom earphone powered by a single balanced armature pushed to its very limits. Polish boutique company Custom Art shows the way to a beautiful, enchanting tuning that puts musicality above all else.

    Enjoyment is immeasurable. I can’t tell you how much I like something, I just do, case closed. Some hobbies , however, have an element of snobbery in them, especially when subjectivity comes into play. People will claim all kinds of things to lord over you. They can detect the crisp pineapple notes in their coffee, smell all 3 layers of a perfume, and have such developed hearing, they can hear a fly sneeze.

    Pish tosh. For the life of me, I can’t tell you if Swiss watches tell a more accurate time, nor if free-range eggs taste better, because I’m dense lol. Same goes for audio. People will go to unjustifiable lengths to justify their extravagance, but at the end of it, just because you spent thousands on gear doesn’t mean your enjoyment is 100 units whereas another bloke’s is 23.

    In the midst of the unending game of one-upmanship, there’s a yearning to go back to basics and just appreciate the music, first and foremost. Meet Piotr Granicki. He started off like you and me, collecting and enthusing about portable gear, modding and reviewing them. Later on, he tinkered with more than he should; and the best possible outcome he could hope for, happened.

    In 2012 he founded Custom Art and launched his own series of in-ear monitors (IEMs). I wish I was that talented. The company tagline is “made with passion”, with the aim of delivering the best products possible at affordable prices. Custom Art grew steadily and today, boasts a full roster of IEMs from entry-level to top-of-the-line (TOTL) for the discerning consumer, earning numerous accolades along the way.



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    Come on feel the emotion. I’m trying to dictate your mood.



    Today we look at one of the entry-level options in Custom Art, The FIBAE Black. So named because it was launched on Black Friday 2018, the Black features Custom Art’s patented FIBAE (Flat Impedance Balanced Armature Earphone) technology, which promises a flat impedance and phase (or in English, a consistent sound signature) no matter what audio player you use, from the lowly cellphone to a mega-expensive copper brick.

    The humble Black (not humblebrag lol) consists of a single balanced armature (BA) driver, albeit a heavily researched and modified one. Tasked with covering the full sound spectrum, this modified BA has Pressure Optimizing Design (P.O.D.), which is a complex implementation of a Heimholtz resonator that shapes and controls the frequency response according to the exacting needs of the maker.

    So what does the thingamajig do again? On paper, the result is a smooth, natural sound with soundstage and imaging capability surpassing what a conventional BA can do. A supercharged driver if you will. The Black retails for €450.00 (~USD500) and is available in custom or universal fit via their official website. I would like to thank Piotr and Kamil for the review sample and the patient back-and-forth emails.

    This review was originally featured in Headphonesty.



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    This chameleon is just trying to blend in.



    Equipment Used:

    DAP
    1. Sony NW-WM1A “K” Modded, FW 2.0
    IEMs
    1. Custom Art FIBAE Black
    2. Fearless Audio S8 Freedom
    3. Acoustune HS1650CU
    Albums
    1. Aaron Neville – Warm Your Heart
    2. Adele – 25
    3. Amber Rubarth – Scribbled Folk Symphonies
    4. Art Pepper – Modern Jazz Classics
    5. Diana Krall – Quiet Nights
    6. Fleetwood Mac – Tango In The Night
    7. Linkin Park – One More Light
    8. Macy Gray – Stripped
    9. Meiko – Playing Favorites
    10. Various – Jazz At The Pawnshop


    [​IMG]
    I keep all my toys in shoeboxes so the kids won’t know.



    Packaging and Accessories

    Years ago in college, a lecturer who was a fan of concise, bullet-point presentations asked us what KISS stood for. I stood up and yelled, “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. It wasn’t the answer she wanted, much to my dismay. Apparently, it was the more genial “Keep It Short and Sweet”. I sat back down, defeated.

    Custom Art’s packaging is as KISSy as it gets, but loaded with charm. Packed in what looks like a kid’s shoebox, you get the essentials. Standard with all custom fit IEMs are the Plastics One 3.5mm cable, wax cleaning tool (because we dirty) and drying pellet. You get two modes of storage, a fabric zippered case, or the absolute gold standard in IEM cases, the Pelican 1010.

    The black Pelican 1010 is well-documented to be as good as it gets when it comes to uncompromised protection for your little IEM darlings. They are watertight, crushproof and dustproof. They are dang near waterproof too, able to be submerged in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes, for whenever you might want to take the Blacks swimming (don’t).



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    Floating in mid-air, defying gravity. Is this Black magic?



    Design and Build Quality

    Every budding artist has a start. Some like redesigning the wheel, others go for artsy IEMs. For the design of custom IEMs, the only limit is the wildness of your imagination. If you can dream it up, Custom Art will be up to the task. The order page is home to an interactive IEM designer tool that allows you to see your creation in real-timeLike a T-shirt maker but more expensive.

    The Black only has one condition. The shell/body must be in solid black, which makes sense because it’d be thematically awkward otherwise. You can customize the faceplate and logos, but if you want something more personal, Custom Art is always an e-mail away. If, like me, you have stunted creativity, Custom Art’s Instagram page provides much-needed inspiration, and for plagiarizing purposes. Their body of work is breathtaking.

    The build quality is impeccable and as good as can be for acrylic IEMs. Shells feel solid and the integration between faceplate and body is seamless, the handiwork of an artisan so skilled in his craft. I’d still advise you to take good care of them though, since they aren’t indestructible. Avoid drops, water, children, and hungry pets. Keep them in the Pelican case and they will outlive you.



    Fit, Isolation and Comfort

    I’ll let you in on a secret. I’ve had more Custom Art IEMs (4) than girlfriends, which is a testament to their enduring quality or my pitiful social life. And every single one of my Custom Art creations have had a perfect, flawless fit. The Black continues the grand tradition, fitting into my ear canals snugly right before the second bend (beyond which would be intrusive and uncomfortable), thus providing a perfect seal.

    And what does a perfect seal provide? Not just a kiss from a rose, but uncompromised sound isolation. Holy heck, Black keeps the background so quiet – blocking out up to 90% of outside noise – that I could use them as earplugs to ward off noisy neighbors and annoying salesmen. Summing up the equation, like Spiderman would say, with great fit comes great comfort. The Black melts into my ears, offering easy listening comfort for hours. Make no mistake, Custom Art is the gold standard when it comes to providing a consistent and excellent fit.



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    These colorful little snails are escargots for the ears.



    Sound Quality

    I know what you’re thinking. A single BA driver couldn’t possibly cover the entire sound spectrum without some compromises, yes? Well, the proof is in the hearing. Piotr selected 10 reviewers to blind test the Black before its launch, without providing any information other than “try it out”. The response was largely positive (see the middle of this page), with minds blown when the Black’s driver count was finally revealed. It’s our turn to dive in.



    Overall Sound Signature

    The sound characteristics of the Black can be described as a mellow, yellow potato. I won’t get away that easily, so allow me to elaborate. The Black has a gentle, laid-back tuning (mellow) with emphasis on euphony and musicality rather than details and neutrality. The mids are the focus of the Black, sounding sweet and colored (yellow), with a natural timbre and organic tinge.

    The bass is warm and full, while the treble is relaxed, but the sound spectrum shares a common trait that is the full, rounded notation (potato), totally free of grain. Of course, the consequence of this potato signature is the relative lack of clarity and middling transparency. If you want the Detail Extractor 3000 I’m afraid this is not the IEM for you.

    What is it though, is the sonic equivalent of soaking in a warm tub while sipping a latte, as someone massages your shoulders. Blissful, serene, warm mid-centric magic. For a long listening session that is fatigue-free, the Black leads the way.



    Listening Conditions

    Critical listening was done after 50 hours of burn-in. While waiting for the hours to complete I just sat there admiring the gorgeous faceplates. Burn-in did not produce any significant sound changes, but I believe the Black has finally warmed up to me. The main review rig is Sony’s NW-WM1A Walkman modded by Project K, and using the stock cable.



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    Fame is fleeting, so enjoy the spotlight while you can.



    Bass

    Lennon said guns, Charles Schultz said puppies, but I believe happiness is a warm buzz. A bass buzz, specifically. Like the elation you feel after a drink or two, before descending into a night of drunken regret and retrograde amnesia, the bass of the Black is carefully measured. The midbass is tastefully elevated, lending warmth to the signature and dictating the overall tone.

    The bass isn’t fast nor punchy, but majestically rounded in a way that soothes and caresses as it attacks, and blooms beautifully with butterfly-like resonance. The bass has just the right amount of thickness for you to savor the beauty of each note, and fades away in an airy flutter that keeps the presentation neat without any smudging.

    Sub-bass extension is scarce, however, with barely any rumble felt or heard in the lowest registers. However, the exquisite tone atones for it. This organic, teddy-bear-fuzzy bass is predictably welcome in slow, emotive tracks, but lacks the depth, slam and layering ability that is demanded of more aggressive tracks. You’ll be perplexed when listening to hard rock or EDM with these, it’s like asking a ballerina to breakdance.



    [​IMG]
    In retrospect, I should’ve used more orange slices.



    Mids

    Like Edward Scissorhands furiously making ice sculptures of Winona Ryder (pre-kleptomania) with his bladed hands, each note in the mids are exquisitely, intricately, and gorgeously shaped. Welcome to the brilliant highlight of the Black. The mids are the heart and bleeding, aching soul of the signature, brimming with so much emotion, the cup runneth over.

    This is not your neutral, reference-oriented mids tuning, no. It is quite colored, with a sweet, even nostalgic tuning, designed to capture emotion and make you feel. Notes are lush, alluring and irresistibly bewitching, flowing into one another with seamless ease and buttery smoothness. The texture is like fine silk, with the tone and timbre sounding natural as ever.

    The mids are placed slightly forward, because the star takes center stage. Male vocals carry weight and gravitas, while guitars, pianos, and strings sound effortlessly grand and sweeping. And female vocals, oh wow, what an emotional wallop! From Adele to Celine Dion, each power-packed performance is so alluring and enchanting, my fidelity would be questioned.

    The mids fall short of perfection, as the upper mids are shelved and slightly muted. Notes lack some air and crunch, and tend to be too relaxed sometimes. That is to say, detail levels and transparency are not the best. Taking the Black’s greatest strength into consideration, however, you will be moved by the tidal wave of emotion the Black provides, with front row seats, no less.



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    How about a fresh bouquet of sophisticated European IEMs to start your day?



    Treble

    When I was much younger and poorer, I’ve once climbed to the top of a modest hill, expecting a cool breeze. But it being the height of a heatwave, I was greeted by a gush of warm air instead. That peculiar experience is replicated in the Black’s treble, where I expected airy, crispy notes balanced with shimmery flair, but received the opposite.

    Don’t get me wrong, treble comes in many flavors and colors, but the Black’s treble is as chill as they come. Notes are smooth and relaxed, if a bit muted. Cymbals and hi-hats have a good tone and natural timbre, but clearly yearning for air and urgency. Shining a positive light to this, Black’s treble is utterly free of sibilance and harshness.

    If you are a fan of long listening sessions with no untoward surprises, Black will fit right in. For my tastes though, ever since age caught up and my biggest thrills come from treble-heavy signatures and really spicy food, Black’s treble is simply too laid-back and rounded.



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    I apologize for the fingerprints, but I swear I couldn’t get my hands off them!



    Soundstage and Imaging

    When you desire enchantment and seduction via intimate vocals of the female sort, you wouldn’t want them to be too far off. Instead, you’d want her to be as close to you as possible, preferably inside your head, or lip-to-lip if that’s even allowed (I won’t judge). So it comes as no surprise that the Black’s soundstage is pretty compact. Stage depth edges out width just slightly, but both are frankly small potatoes.

    The lush, smooth and overall relaxed nature of the signature means that imaging capability is average at best. It’s easy to pick out spatial cues in simple, woman-in-front-of-piano arrangements. But in complicated tracks, the lines are blurred and instrument separation takes a hit. Notes tend to meld into one another, not helped by the intimate soundstage either.



    [​IMG]
    A new health craze meant every Tom, Dick and Black is trying out rock-climbing.



    Comparisons

    Fearless Audio S8 Freedom

    I’m sorry I don’t have another single-BA to compare the Black with, but how about something similarly priced? If you had about $500 to splurge, would you go for a custom IEM from a boutique European company, or the current shining star of Chi-fi? The answer is... not as simple as I thought.

    The Fearless S8 Freedom (S8F) sounds as far apart from the FIBAE Black as humanly possible. Where the Black soothes and caresses, the S8F pounds and pummels with an aggressive, in-your-face V-shaped signature, with a bountifully bold bass and heightened treble response.

    S8F attacks hard and fast, with a much speedier transient response, and airiness and crunch to the notes that I missed in the Black. It’s highly-transparent as well, with every iota of detail mined and presented to the listener, like a housecat presenting its latest kill. Its downfall though, is the overbearing, over-eager sound that gets fatiguing after awhile.

    The Black’s weaknesses are made more apparent after a short session with the S8F. The subbass is barely there, the treble sounds too muted and the signature lacks air and snappiness. But it outlasts the S8F where it might matter most, the mids. Black makes S8F sound artificial and uninvolved, and wins me over with sheer musicality and accurate tone.

    So what we have are two IEMs that are complementary to each other. S8F is made for the feet, while Black is for the heart. If pressed for an answer, S8F is the better all-rounder and fits more genres, but you’d be missing out on the purity of sound and emotion that the Black so effortlessly delivers.



    [​IMG]
    Meet the Mel Gibson of IEMs.



    Acoustune HS1650

    Single-driver IEMs have their inherent charms. Simple, direct, without added complications (a good word in the watch world by the way) like crossovers or phasing to worry about, in general, they sound more uniform and coherent even to the untrained ear. The HS1650CU is one of my best-loved tunings at any price, and despite newer releases by Acoustune, still stands as my firm favorite in their lineup.

    So what is the 1650’s special sauce? A perfect blend of detail and musicality, of emotion and dynamism. With a neutral-warm signature, it’s suited for almost all genres without being too picky. Against the Black, 1650 has a more visceral and swift bass, hitting cleaner with more jarring impact and intricate detail. The Black sounds one-note in comparison.

    The 1650 lower mids take a dip, and this is where Black shines once more. Fully-formed male vocals realistic enough to make your hairs stand, the instrument timbre so moving it’s just magical. Moving up it’s more evenly-matched, with the 1650 more technically proficient with better detail and layering ability, but sounding grainier and less natural than the Black.

    In the upper mids and treble, 1650 floats away with more air, transparency, and excitement, showcasing without a doubt that it is technically superior. Black’s treble is shelved, but the excellent tone remains its sole saving grace. For me, 1650 does more things correct, but if your music library very specifically consists of vocalists with sparse arrangements, Black will do you good.



    [​IMG]
    Hit the road, Black!



    Final Words

    The IEM world is awash with people forever chasing the latest and greatest, from the newest drivers to the latest tubeless designs, among others. The tech specs read like a laundry list of gung-ho, made-up names to sound impressive. While FIBAE Black boasts a few funny acronyms too, the aim of it is to bring back the love for the music, and not the equipment.

    The Black, in its purest form, presents an exuberant expression of music, thanks to its achingly beautiful and intricate tone. It renders music with conviction, purity, and sweetness, but alas, doesn’t do so with all genres. For just about any modern genre, the tone and tempo sounds out of place and lacks energy.

    Feed the Black slow-paced music, however, and be prepared to reap its generous rewards. Black’s unwavering dedication to present music in its most charming and emotional form, means you will be moved by intimate vocals and rich, organic instrumentation over and over again.

    With the Black, I rediscovered my parents’ music collection and savored each track as if with new ears. Wave after wave of nostalgia washed over me as I closed my eyes and reminisced about years long past. While the Black is not without its weaknesses, once you find the sweet spot like I did, there is no turning back.
      ustinj likes this.
  7. Johnny Mac
    Custom Art FIBAE Black Realview.
    Written by Johnny Mac
    Published Jul 6, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Balanced and accurate sound, UIEM version provides great comfort, great versatility options with various sources, solid build and stock cable, Pelican case included.
    Cons - Packaging(if you're into something fancy)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Show off a new design - the world glimpses; include fancy accessories - the world still glimpses. But create new technology and the world will watch, such is what Custom Art did. To audiophiles spanning the globe, the introduction of new of a design and the inclusion of fancy accessories in audio gear is a common sight, but the development and introduction of exclusive and singular technology always stirs not only the mind but also the curiosity of hobbyists who are eager to either verify or vilify something new.

    Custom Art is one of the many members in the high-end CIEM/UIEM pool of sharks which if you happen to lack the chomps will surely shatter your dreams of making it big or if lucky, relegate you to the calmer seas where as it implies, calm, but dull. Custom Art was founded in May 2012 by Piotr Granicki in Warsaw, Poland and oddly enough, also a reviewer of portable audio equipment while also being a DIYer which eventually took hold of him to create his own series of earphones.

    I was sent a choice of either a CIEM or UIEM review unit for the FIBAE Black and as my area has minimal Custom Art presence, I opted to go for the UIEM version in exchange for an honest review with no monetary involvement which the Custom Art Overseer is quite familiar with.

    The FIBAE Black is one of the new models from Custom Art which was released on the Black Friday of 2018. The FIBAE Black as the name implies highlights Custom Art’s FIBAE technology which stands for Flat Impedance Balanced Armature Earphone, a design which provides the Black model with a flat impedance and phase that provides an assurance of being driven easily by various sources. The FIBAE Black currently retails for 450 EUR and you can check their official Custom Art and FIBAE Black website for more product offerings and details.

    Custom Art FIBAE Black spec sheet:
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    Packaging and Build Quality
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    I’m not certain if the FIBAE Black’s packaging is the standard Custom Art packaging for all its products but if it is, it is one of the brands biggest areas of improvement. The FIBAE Blacks’ came in a plain rectangular matte black box with no tags or identification that it hailed from Custom Art and at both a consumer and reviewer standpoint, it’s a lost marketing opportunity. The minimalist approach also has its appeal and would please some though.
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    Inside the box is where things starts to take off, starting with a nice black elliptical leather case. Right next to this leather case is the FIBAE Black’s Iron curtain, Maginot line and Great Wall; call it whatever you like but this one is the Pelican 1010 Micro case. I’d trade the fancy packaging all day every day for this specific case to accompany and secure a CIEM/UIEM designed to provide the best possible sound. Since the Pelican 1010 Micro case is transparent up top, Custom Art chose to add their trademark brick-colored manual disguised as a greeting card with a sole “Hi” statement upfront and since I have the UIEM version, it came with a set of black silicon ear tips (S, M and L) with one double-flange black silicon ear tips in the medium size. A drying pellet and wax pick cleaning tool is also included in the FIBAE Black package.
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    The FIBAE Black’s overall shell and faceplate is made of 3D printed acrylic which is standard on the UIEM/CIEM market now. There were no cosmetic issues on my review unit and the entire surface came out smooth and polished, do note that the FIBAE Black only comes in a solid black color for the shell and only the faceplate design, internal wiring color combo and serial number colors can be customized. Feel free to contact Custom Art directly for any specific requests that you have to get that ultimate customized experience.
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    All the default configurations for the FIBAE Black was used on my review unit except for the added Audio Realviews logo and the clear faceplate for the left ear piece along with the Custom Art logo which looked great for showing off the internal wiring. The 2-pin sockets are flushed and secures the connection excellently. The FIBAE Blacks’ nozzle has a single bore which is linked directly to the lone BA driver’s tubing, there is also a nozzle lip available for the UIEM version which worked flawlessly when I tried several 3rd party ear tips.
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    The FIBAE Black’s stock cable features an SPC cable with clear plastic insulation that allows for a more detailed look on the cables internals. There is also great strain relief on all joints and utilizes a right-angled, gold-plated 3.5mm plug along with a .78mm 2-pin at the other end which has an over-ear memory ear guide reinforced with a thin strip of metal.

    Tonality and Isolation
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    Convenience has always been one of the aspect of a gadget that is often swept under the rug and only comes up when actual day to day usage are factored in after that honeymoon phase where a consumer gets over the excitement of owning what they used to covet. The Custom Art FIBAE Black is currently one of the best products with regards to convenience that I’ve ever tried in this audiophile hobby. This is my 1st experience with Custom Art’s FIBAE tech and so far it has delivered its actual promise being an acutely versatile, it has yet to encounter any impedance issues resulting to any annoying hiss that makes usage of the FIBAE Black to be relegated for storage.

    Black is often associated with being filthy but with the FIBAE Black, this outlook takes a complete 360 turn. The FIBAE Black is indeed black with its ability to create a black background from the get go with the subsequent occurrence of sound frequencies to still be controlled well. Isolation is great as well and does an excellent blocking out noise while still being comfortable, pairing it with your desired ear tips would only improve the result. The FIBAE Black is carelessly a warm sounding set with strong emphasis on clarity. The Sony CAS-1 desktop setup off an MSI GF 62 8RE laptop via Foobar2000 v1.4 and the Sony A46HN DAP along with stock medium ear tips was used for the whole duration of the realview.

    Lows
    The FIBAE Black’s low frequency performance was tested with a collection of Marshall Mather’s greatest hits along with Foster the People’s Lotus Eater all in 16/44 FLAC. The Black’s bass is rendered in a lean yet robust presentation with great body and soft approach. It delivers not the fastest attack resulting in an enjoyable lingering feel. The Lotus Eater track showcased the FIBAE Black’s strength in the low end. There is sufficient rumble in the sub bass as well and just the right amount of thump, not the most powerful but not weak in the long run too. Not being a bass lover myself, this sits well with my preferred bass performance.

    Midrange
    Jason Mraz finally debuts in Audio Realviews for the FIBAE Black’s midrange performance test. The Black’s midrange is close to reference sounding with a slightly forward take on the lower midrange which made the overall midrange sound fuller especially the male vocals which in turn renders accurate vocal tones that are far from being off timbre. The distinctly clear instrumental tones coordinates well with the lower midrange. The upper midrange is easy to the ears while still being able to handle with controlled attack on various instrumental tones. A totally engaging and lively approach on the midrange is the FIBAE Black’s mantra.

    Highs
    Conservative and always stays close to home is the game for the FIBAE Black’s high frequency performance. Although there’s load of clarity and articulation to be observed, the evident lack of added oomph and kick for that sweet treble bite that tickles an audiophile would have been great, for me personally that is. If you are after that distinct high frequency delivery without the risk of fatigue then the FIBAE Black is a nice companion for your listening sessions.

    Soundstage and Imaging
    The FIBAE Black’s soundstage is all about intimacy. It provides a great deal of separation performance in a black background that results in another great performance for the imaging. Although depth gets more of the favored son treatment with how Custom Art tuned the Black, the width still performs well, just not at the level that you’d die for. There is great panning and detail retrieval to be observed as well. This gets a thumbs a double thumbs up for me.

    Conclusion
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    The FIBAE Black does all the things a great set of IEM should, from sounding accurate to being right on point with tonal timbre. It’s a sound that I would enjoy for the most part of the day and the week except when that treble head of mine comes up. It does lack the treble extension and bite that I personally prefer but that doesn’t mean it’s a weakness, it’s just a matter of handling the higher frequencies properly at a signature that borderlines to being massively mainstream. The one thing that I will definitely take sides with for the FIBAE Black is its inherent versatility and comfort, I’ve had a great time carrying it around and pairing it with various sources and still be free of impedance issues, that’s FIBAE for y’all. This will definitely stay on my desk for actual use rather than being on that Pelican case.
      josesol07 likes this.
  8. Dobrescu George
    Warm Reactor - TheCustomArt Fibae Black
    Written by Dobrescu George
    Published Jun 13, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - + Excellent comfort and beautiful design
    + Best quality carrying case included
    + Very high quality cable that is both thin and flexible
    + Smooth, laid back and non fatiguing sound
    + Very easy to drive, and very easy to get the best sound out of them with a budget source
    + Excellent support from the company, TheCustomArt
    + Custom version available, not much more expensive than the universal, but has improved comfort and improved noise isolation
    Cons - - Laid back sound and little fatigue also means that the treble is laid back and smooth
    - Overall details are average
    - Not a lot of tips included in the package
    Warm Reactor - TheCustomArt Fibae Black

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    TheCustomArt is an IEM and CIEM (Universals and Custom IEMs) company from Poland, who has seen a huge growth and was received really well by music lovers from all over the world in the past two years. The FIBAE Black is an IEM designed for music listening rather than monitoring, but with a pretty friendly price of 450 EUROs. This being said, it is a one BA IEM, and I'll be testing it against competition that has more drivers for that price, so things should turn out fun.




    Introduction


    TheCustomArt is a really friendly company from Poland, who has put on the market some interesting products in the past, like the Fibae series. As the name dictates, the Black is designed to be a more warm, dark and smooth approach to their usually revealing and slightly midrange-forward kind of sound. The warranty with The Custom Art is exceptional, and you can expect some of the best products you've ever seen when ordering from them. Their products usually come with non-branded Peli cases, but I see that as an advantage, you know that they are of the best quality, not a cheaper OEM rebrand, but the actual Peli cases. You can expect The Custom Art products to last a long while, and you don't have to worry about the warranty, they are some of the best when it comes to it.

    It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with TheCustomArt, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by TheCustomArt or anyone else. I'd like to thank TheCustomArt for providing the sample for this review. The sample was provided along with TheCustomArt's request for an honest and unbiased review. This review reflects my personal experience with TheCustomArt Fibae Black. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in TheCustomArt Fibae Black find their next music companion.



    Product Link (no affiliate links)

    https://thecustomart.com/fibae-black/



    About me

    https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/about.html



    Packaging

    First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:


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    Well, there's not much package to talk about, Fibae Black comes in a very unbranded black cardboard box. Inside you can find Fibae Black inside a Peli carrying case, a carrying pouch, a set of tips, a cleaning tool and a bag of Silica to keep the Fibae Black Dry.

    Given their price, and the usage scenario, Fibae Black comes with both an excellent carrying solution, tips, and you won't feel like there was much else you could have desired for. They don't come with a balanced cable, but they come with typical custom IEMs cables that are thin, yet of very high quality.



    What to look for when purchasing a high-end In-Ear Monitor


    https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/what-to-lookl.html



    Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort


    Starting with the build quality of Fibae Black, they are a fully plastic IEM, of a beautiful purple color, and they are slightly transparent. You can notice that there's a lot of work going on inside the IEM, with the sonic tubes, or as TheCustomArt calls it, Pressure Optimising Design.

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    The comfort is quite excellent, they sit nicely in your ears, and the void is pretty minimal (most BA-Only, and especially Custom based BA-Only have a huge amount of void to their fit). On the other hand, the tips included in the package are pretty basic, and I'd recommend to acquire a set of Spinfit tips rather than using the original tips, but not for an improved sound, but for improved comfort.

    The IEMs isolate extremely well from the outside noise, almost 25dB of passive noise isolation, but if you need even more, you can always go for the custom version, which usually results in an even better fit and better isolation. You can actually use the universal version to sing and perform live, without having to worry about not having a custom IEM. Having a universal always means a more easy sell and replace process, which is a good reason to go for universal despite the custom having a better comfort and a better seal.

    Now, Fibae Black has only one Balanced Armature inside, which is very unusual for a IEM at this price point, but if we're being honest, a single BA, if it is customly designed and really good doesn't impose any limitations on the IEM itself, it is just a design choice, usually 1-driver designs tend to be more coherent, especially if the driver is good and if the acoustic chamber inside is designed well.

    The impedance of Fibae Black is extremely low, at 5.2 Ohms, this is the IEM with the lowest impedance I have ever had, even lower than Verum One, which also has an extremely low impedance. With an extremely huge SPL of 108 dB, you know that Fibae Black is going to be easy to drive. This being said, when it comes to the actual hiss they have, I can't say that they are the most hissy IEM I know, which is interesting, somehow, it feels like for the specifications offered by TheCustomArt, Fibae Black is really silent when it comes to hiss, and only very few sources will present it.


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    The fact that it is 3D printed means that you get excellent comfort as well when you go with the custom version, which is quite a big win. I went with TheCustomArt branding for my review sample, because I actually like their own branding on their own products quite a lot, they have cool logos, and the products look quite complete like this, but you can always design your own Logo, or have them signed with your name, even for the universal version, which may come in handy, especially if you're in a band, or if you want to make them look super fancy.

    The overall ergonomics are excellent, the cable is of the highest quality, but it is in the style of customs cables, which are all thin and flexible, an artist would want their IEMs and monitors to not be visible, so TheCustomArt went with a much less thick cable than you see with IEMs that are flashy. If there was one thing I am not a big fan of, that is the solid ear guide, I almost always prefer a flexible one because it provides better comfort for my ears in particular, but I can see the strength of having it solid, it surely fits the IEMs more tightly and especially if you're going to be headbanging or performing or doing something active, you want all the fit you can get so your monitors stay in.

    Overall, Fibae Black is one heck of a comfortable IEM, with a beautiful aesthetic and many customisable design options, even if you decide to order a universal pair, rather than a custom fit pair.



    Sound Quality

    Now this i where things get interesting, because you may be a bit uneasy when you think about that single BA driver. Truly, there are 100 USD IEMs that have 5 BA drivers for each ear, but those always come with problems, and as I always say, one good driver is better than 10 cheap drivers, so I don't have much worry from the start knowing that there is just one BA in there. Furthermore, one BA means that there is no crossover implied, so a lot of the issues that would otherwise arise from the usage of a crossover are avoided when going with this design.


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    With the technical talk out of the way, the sound of Fibae Black is pretty darn magical. I have no idea how TheCustomArt managed to pull this off, but Fibae Black is one smooth performing IEM. Not only smooth, but every musical note flows to the next one, everything is natural, especially the midrange, and the detail, while not the focus of Fibae Black, is very good. Think about it this way, all you've heard about BA is true here, but if you take only the strengths, and none of the disadvantages. With the inner acoustics of the Fibae Black being quite well designed, you can hear that this IEM will be a love for you if you love a slightly dark-ish, laid back, smooth and musical sound.

    The bass is deep, smooth and laid back, with the upper bass being more enhanced than the sub-bass. Thing here is, the bass and the sub bass both have the qualities, like the speed, of a BA driver, but they have the quantity, punch and impact of a dynamic driver, if I didn't know what was inside Fibae Black, I could never tell that this was a fully BA IEM. You can hear a ton of rumble and impact from it, and you are not left waniting for more, even if you are a basshead who loves hip hop or electronic music. The overall warmth actually goes to the midrange a bit as well, and you get a pretty full, warm and full-bodied sound.

    The thing about the midrange is that the detail is about average, but the speed of the sound is still pretty good, and so are the dynamics, so Fibae Black will hold a magical place for you even if your favorite genre is something complicated and hard to play like Classical or Large-Orchestra music. For Metal, they are a touch warm and friendly. This is the thing about Fibae Black, any acoustic instrument you throw at it, is rendered pretty naturally, because they have a very natural way of rendering the body of the instrument, basically, they are slightly dark-ish and a bit thick, but it is not too much, and rendering of acoustic instruments is both satisfying and realistic.

    The treble is on the smoother side, the upper midrange and lower treble is slightly enhanced, and there is a good amount of air in the treble, but the treble is clearly not the highlight of their signature, especially when it comes to the amount of treble they have. The highlight here is that they are not one bit bright, not one bit harsh, not one bit fatiguing, you get one of the most relaxing and easy to listen to trebles there are.

    The instrument separation is pretty average, although the soundstage size is good and the soundstage doesn't feel constrained. The Stereo Imaging is quite excellent, and when you listen to complex music with a lot of instruments, you can hear all of them. The dynamics of this little IEM, although it relies on a single BA driver, are quite impressive.





    Portable Usage


    Fibae Black is one of the easiest to drive IEMs in the world, with an ultra low impedance, and an ultra high SPL, meaning that you can literally drive it from anything you desire. Despite their very unusual low impedance, they are way less sensitive to hiss than I'd have expected, so you don't have to worry about them gaining hiss from a source that's less than ideal.

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    Fibae Black does not scale very much with better sources, it is rather easy to get them to sound at their best, even while on a budget when it comes to the source.

    When it comes to their protability, they come with both a small carrying case, and a larger high-quality peli case. Furthermore, they have a supple cable that's excellent for portability, and they have a very secure fit and a good amount of passive noise isolation. Furthermore, they don't have a huge amount of void, so you can wear Fibae Black rather comfortably for long periods of time. The cable isn't tangle-prone either, so you don't have to worry about storing them and having to take them out quickly.

    You really don't need to turn up the volume very much, and as someone pointed out to me, those monitors are designed to be listened below 100 dB, after that you may risk some odd reactions with your source, since the impedance of Fibae black is so low, and most sources may distort or enter current clipping at very high volumes. They are recommended if you aren't prone to cranking the volume above 100 dB in general. The 25 dBs of passivle noise isolation surely come in handy for this, and you won't hear much coming from the outside, even with the universal version, so try to practice safe listening levels and protect your hearing.

    Overall, Fibae Black is excellent for portability, one of the best IEMs created for you to take on-the-go.




    Comparisons


    Based on your requests, I have chosen iBasso IT-04 (500 USD), HIFIMAN RE800 Silver (between 600 and 300 USD), and Acoustune HS1650CU (about 650 USD). It would have made an interesting comparison with Model X from Lime Ears, not because they are necessarily direct competitors in the price range, but because as far as I understand, the two companies are physically close to each other. I will be doing that comparison as well in the Model X review, as right now the ones above seem more relevant as direct competitors to Fibae Black. I have decided to try and focus more on the sonic comparisons between products as the fit and accessories are less relevant unless talking about IEMs that have really different packages or build qualities.

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    TheCustomArt Fibae Black vs iBasso IT04 - iBasso did something quite amazing with IT04, it is a smoother, yet still extremely well extended IEM, with both a deep bass that is extremely fast and a treble that is incredibly well extended and sparkly. When comparing Fibae Black to IT04, Fibae Black feels thicker, slower in speed, less extended in the treble, yet at the same time, easier to listen to, smoother, more full bodied, more romantic and more punchy. The sub-bass and overall bass of Fibae Black surely feels more extended, and if there's one thing you'd want to know about each, IT04 feels more bright, more open, wider, more airy and more linear, while Fibae Black feels quite a bit thicker, more lush, more focused, more punchy and deeper. Between the two, you can easily make a choice for the kind of sound you'd want, they have similar levels of details, textures and overall in terms of resolution, they are similar.


    TheCustomArt Fibae Black vs HIFIMAN RE800 Silver - RE800 Silver is an interesting IEM, that was launched at a higher price point, but is now selling for 300 USD. This being said, I'm trying to consider it for the original price it was launched at, which was about 600 USD. The biggest difference in build quality between RE800S and Fibae Black is that RE800S does not have detachable cables, and does not come with a carrying case, but has a smaller body and is more comfortable, yet Fibae Black isolates more from the outside noise. Now, in terms of sound, the funny thing is that RE800 Silver actually has quite a bit more detail, but it sounds more playful and childish, it is a more classical V-Shaped signature that is fun with electronic, and which I tend to love a lot, as I stated in my review of it, where Fibae Black feels more mature, more serious, feels way less fatiguing, as the treble on RE800 may be a bit fatiguing for some, and RE800 Silver feels similarly dynamic and punchy compared to Fibae Black, but Fibae Black has considerably more body and weight to its sound. If you're a fan of laid-back, smooth and deep sounds, then Fibae Black will be your choice, while if you're a fan of V-Shaped types of signatures, then RE800S will be your choice from those two.

    TheCustomArt Fibae Black vs Acoustune HS1650CU - Acoustune HS1650CU is magical, because it both has a very complicated name, but its sound actually makes up for both its name and its slightly high price point. Indeed, Hs1650CU has a similar tuning to Fibae Black, but there's one detail in the build quality that you should keep in mind, Fibae Black tends to isolate a bit more from the outside noise than HS1650CU. HS1650CU is a bit more comfortable than Fibae Black, at least for those who are more used to universals than CIEMs. Now, the sound is actually quite similar. HS1650CU feels more open and it also feels a bit more bright compared to Fibae Black, and comparing the two would be simplest summed as, Fibae Black is the smooth, laid back version, while HS1650CU has the same full bodied sound, same dynamics and impact, but a wider soundstage, more detail and a more open sound. From the two, if you really want it to be fatigue-free, Fibae Black will be your choice, while if you'll want your sound to be more open and more balanced, and if you don't mind spending 200 USD extra, HS1650CU will be your choice.



    Recommended Pairings


    Since TheCustomArt Fibae Black are really easy to drive and don't require much of an amplification, I have chosen some more affordable pairings that will best highlight TheCustomArt Fibae Black.

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    TheCustomArt Fibae Black + FiiO Q5 (AM05) - FiiO Q5 is like an icon right now, pretty much perfect DAC/AMP for this price range, it has the perfect balance between details, driving power and overall soundstage and dynamics. Driving Fibae Black, you can expect one of the best pairings there is, and with AM05, the soundstage is a bit wider than usual, which helps Fibae Black quite a bit.

    TheCustomArt Fibae Black + iBasso DX120 - DX120 is a very basic, but very powerful DAP (Digital Audio Player) from iBasso, because it has both two microSD cards, but it also has a Line Out, a normal Headphone Out, and a Balanced Headphone Output. Furthermore, it has a USB Type-C charging port, and its sound is as sweet and amazing as you could imagine. In fact, if you wanted to make Fibae Black even sweeter, Wider in the soundstage, and more punchy, then DX120 is one of the best options there are, it always feels like iBasso products are focused on sounding dynamic, because even its bigger brother, DX220 excels in dynamics.

    TheCustomArt Fibae Black + FiiO M6 - FiiO M6 is very small, nimble, and very affordable, but does exactly the opposite thing from DX120, FiiO M6 has all the bells and whistles you could desire, including Wifi, Bluetooth, AirPlay, excellent tidal Support, Streaming and it is pretty much an all-knowing DAP that you can use for pretty much anything. This being said, the sound of M6 is more neutral and reference, but this can come in handy, if you want Fibae Black to be a bit more neutral, less warm and more focused on detail, rather than dynamics or smoothness. If you are a musician, this may be a very powerful combo.




    Value and Conclusion


    For a price of 450USD, Fibae Black sits pretty well in the market, especially if you were looking for a smoother, more laid back, and fluid-sounding IEM that will never be fatiguing. The detail levels and clarity are in line with most of its competitors, although they are tuned differently than the most, and they surely win a lot in terms of passive noise isolation.

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    Starting with the build quality, Fibae Black is one well built IEM, although it is made from Acrylic, being pretty sweet and beautiful. They can be customized with your own logos, although they look stunning with The Custom Art logos as well. The IEMs can come in both universal and Custom variants, the biggest difference being that the customs are going to isolate even more, the custom is going to be even more comfortable, and the detail will be a smidgen better when getting a custom.

    The package is nice, although it has no unique branding, at least for the outer case, but on the bright side, The Custom Art has used the best of the best cases, a true Peli case. They also included a good number of tips, and a high quality cable for Fibae Black, although the cable is more supple and more thin than what you're most probably used to seeing with most IEMs. This happens because Fibae Black is more of a performance IEM, which you may want at some point to perform with, they are derived from artist customs, which all require thin and almost invisible cables.


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    The sound of Fibae Black is sweet, slightly dark-ish, it is thick, warm, full bodied, with a deep bass that reaches quite low, good dynamics and impact, clear overall presentation, amazingly natural representation especially for acoustic instruments, and even for large orchestra, and despite the average overall detail, still very impressive and natural.

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    At the end of the day, if you're looking for a smooth, laid back IEM that you can enjoy without fatigue, regardless of what you're listening to, a IEM that really isolates you from the outside noise, and an IEM you will be able to love for many years to come and which won't give up on you, Fibae Black might be the one for you, and you should totally check them out.



    Product Link (no affiliate links)


    https://thecustomart.com/fibae-black/



    Full Playlist used for this review

    While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you're searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.




    Tidal Playlist

    https://tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b



    Song List

    Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date

    Eskimo Callboy - Frances
    Incubus - Summer Romance
    Electric Six - Dager! High Voltage
    Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead
    Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir
    Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow
    Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us
    Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
    Infected Mushroom - Song Pong
    Attack Attack - Kissed A Girl
    Doctor P - Bulletproof
    Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw
    Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
    Escape The Fate - Gorgeous Nightmare
    SOAD - Chop Suey
    Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory
    Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve
    Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop
    Crow'sclaw - Loudness War
    Eminem - Rap God
    Stromae - Humain À L'eau
    Sonata Arctica - My Selene
    Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
    Metallica - Fuel
    Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
    Masa Works - Golden Japang
    REOL - Luvoratorrrrry
    Dope - Addiction
    Korn - Word Up!
    Papa Roach - ... To be Loved
    Fever The Ghost - Source
    Fall Out Boy - Immortals
    Green Day - Know The Enemy
    Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge
    A static Lullaby - Toxic
    Royal Republic - Addictive
    Astronautalis - The River, The Woods
    We Came As Romans - My Love
    Skillet - What I Believe
    Man With A Mission - Smells Like Teen Spirit
    Yasuda Rei - Mirror
    Mojo Juju - Must Be Desire
    Falling Up - Falling In Love
    Manafest - Retro Love
    Rodrigo Y Grabriela - Paris
    Zomboy - Lights Out
    Muse - Resistance
    T.A.T.U & Rammstein - Mosaku
    Grey Daze - Anything, Anything
    Katy Perry - Who Am I Living For
    Maroon 5 - Lucky Strike
    Machinae Supremacy - Killer Instinct
    Pendulum - Propane Nightmares
    Sirenia - Lithium And A Lover
    Saving Abel - Addicted
    Hollywood Undead - Levitate
    The Offspring - Special Delivery
    Escape The Fate - Smooth
    Samsara Blues Experiment - One With The Universe
    Dope - Rebel Yell
    Crazy Town - Butterfly
    Silverstein - My Heroine


    I hope my review is helpful to you!

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    Contact me!

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  9. crabdog
    Take Me Black
    Written by crabdog
    Published Jun 1, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Sleek 3D-printed shells
    Warm, inviting character
    Value for money
    Cons - Customization limited to faceplates only
    Modest detail retrieval
    FIBAE Black with cable.jpg

    Hi, there fam. In today’s review, I’m checking out the Custom Art FIBAE Black, a single balanced armature driver in-ear monitor. The Black utilizes not just the established FIBAE technology but also sports a new innovation: Pressure Optimizing Design (POD). According to Custom Art’s website:

    The Custom Art
    Custom Art website: https://thecustomart.com/
    Learn more about FIBAE tech: https://thecustomart.com/fibae/

    This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.

    Package and Accessories

    This time around I didn’t get the usual packaging because I received the FIBAE Black in person from Piotr Granicki, the man behind The Custom Art, during CanJam Singapore 2019. However, the regular bundle remains the same as the other FIBAE models and includes the following:

    • Custom Art FIBAE Black earphones
    • Detachable SPC 2-pin cable
    • Pelican 1010 storage case
    • Zipper clamshell case
    • Cleaning tool
    • Desiccant pellet
    • Warranty card
    Build Quality and Design

    The FIBAE Black is the first of Custom Art’s in-ear monitor models to use 3D-printing technology. Why use 3D printing? It offers more consistency across each unit, increases the speed of production time and it also allows for more precise reproduction of each person’s ear shape. It is available in both universal and custom fit (I chose a custom fit).

    FIBAE Black faceplates cable.jpg

    There is a downside, however, to this new tech. It means that there are fewer customization options available but this is likely to change once the technique is refined. With CA’s other models you can choose different colours for the shells and canals. With the Black, you can currently only customize the faceplate. The only colour option for the shells is a glossy, piano black. Fortunately, the black shells look classy AF!

    The FIBAE Black is really nicely built. The thickness of the 3D-printed shells feels more uniform compared to the handcrafted models and the contours are smoother overall. There’s not much difference otherwise since The Custom Art have always produced really high-quality products.

    Comfort and Noise Isolation

    If you’re getting custom shells like me, the comfort will depend greatly on the quality of your ear impressions.

    So does the 3D-printing work? Well, the Black is now my third CIEM from Custom Art. All three were produced using the same silicone ear moulds/impressions that I had made here in Bangkok (I highly recommend BKK Audio if you’re looking for impressions in Thailand). Although my FIBAE 2 and 3 fit great and are comfortable, the Black is even better. It has a more curved and smooth surface and gives me an even better seal than the aforementioned models.

    Naturally, because I chose to get the custom version, the noise isolation is superb as is normally the case with a custom in-ear monitor. Not much else to say about it really, except that you should be aware if you try to talk to me while I’m wearing the Blacks, I’m likely to just shake my head and offer no other response.

    FIBAE Black Agni MK2.jpg

    Cable

    The included SPC cable is the new Plastics1 Crystal Motion. It has a transparent TPU sheath through which you can see the silver-plated copper wiring within. The transparent plastic 2-pin connectors are unchanged from previous iterations and still have the minimalistic but very functional blue and red dots to easily identify the left and right sides.

    There is a short length of memory wire at the top of the cable. Further down are 2 simple transparent plastic discs that act as a cable cinch and a matching Y-split. They’re both unobtrusive and lightweight.

    The cable terminates in a right-angled 3.5 mm plug. As with previous stock Plastics1 cables, this one is really simple but very functional and comfortable. It’s pliable, lightweight and has virtually no microphonics.

    FIBAE Black cable parts.jpg

    Sound

    Gear used for testing includes the iBasso DX120 and Soundaware M2Pro as portable sources. On the desktop, I currently have my Arcam irDAC-II in rotation which is connected to my PC via USB. The FIBAE Black does not require extra amplification but it does scale well with a better source. My favourite source tested was by far the Soundaware M2Pro which has a fantastic, holographic soundstage and smooth yet resolving character.

    Dark is a term I haven’t used often in recent times but it comes to mind when I listen to the Black. Lately, it seems as though everyone is focusing on more neutral or reference tuning where technical showboating takes precedence over musical enjoyment. The Black laughs in the face of that approach and then does the exact opposite.

    It has a sound that focuses on the middle bass and to a lesser extent the upper bass and upper midrange. The end result is a sound that’s warm and soothing with a little bite added for interest and contrast. Kinda like salted caramel if you know what I mean. And if you don’t, be warned; you only need one spoon to enjoy it but it’s very hard to stop after just 1 spoonful.

    What makes the Black special is its ability to have such an easygoing, relaxed signature and yet still be resolving and maintain a decent amount of tonal accuracy. Because it has such a unique approach it took me a little longer than usual to adjust to the Black’s sound signature.

    FIBAE Black front and back.jpg

    Bass
    The Black’s bass is lush with a fullness that forms the warm foundation on which everything else rests. It focuses on the mid and upper bass which are slightly enhanced while the sub-bass is on the lighter side with moderate extension.

    Despite the roundness of the bass notes it still has a fantastic, grungy texture that makes it really satisfying. A great example is the bass in Wang Wen’s “Mail From The River” starting from around the 2-minute mark which the Black reproduces with a gritty physicality.

    Another fine example of the Black’s enticing bass is Porcupine Tree’s “.3”. The rolling bassline takes on a life of its own and the impact you get from the kick drum will make you question if there is really only one single balanced armature driver hidden within.

    Mids
    The midrange on the Black can be quite deceptive. It has the illusion of being quite thick but that’s mostly the effects of the underlying warmth and resonance of the bass as well as the attenuated treble. I reckon this is the magic created by the Pressure Optimizing Design but I could be wrong. I’m probably wrong…

    The transition from the upper bass to lower mids is fairly linear, adding some girth to lower-register instruments and male vocals. Similar to the bass, male vocals are buttery smooth but rich and textured. An upper midrange rise adds presence and vibrancy to female vocals, all the while maintaining that sense of effortlessness.

    The Black’s midrange richness and body exist in stark contradiction to the speed and definition that coexists along with them. It’s one of the aspects that makes this such a unique and interesting in-ear monitor.

    Treble
    The Black has a treble that is clear and well-defined but slightly attenuated and pushed back in the mix. This adds to the dark nature of the Black’s tonality but what I really love about it is the timbre. Everything in the treble range sounds realistic and natural and as an added bonus is completely free of sharpness or sibilance.

    A little bump at 6kHz adds clarity and articulation plus the excellent extension in the upper treble adds airiness and lightness without brightness. It’s not the most detailed treble and some of the micro details will go unnoticed but it fits in perfectly with the Black’s laid back style.

    Soundstage
    The Black’s dimensions are reasonably modest, at least, in terms of width. The depth portrayed by the Black is quite impressive, although it occupies a fairly narrow space in front of the listener. Despite its rounder notes and slower transients, the Black maintains good layering with a dark background and there is ample separation between instruments to avoid feeling closed-in.

    FIBAE Black with DAP angled.jpg

    Comparisons

    Custom Art FIBAE 2

    The FIBAE 2 is more V-shaped in comparison with the Black. It has a more energetic upper midrange and treble giving it a brighter character. Midrange notes are thinner, making it slightly less forgiving although it still has the characteristic Custom Art smoothness.

    Despite the FIBAE 2’s extra treble presence, the Black’s stage dimensions feel larger. So even with its note thickness, the Black paints a clearer picture because of its blacker background and cohesiveness.

    Custom Art FIBAE 3

    The FIBAE 3 shifts its focus further up the scale than the Black. Its bass has a similar character with a slow attack and solid impact but is positioned behind the midrange. FIBAE 3 brings the midrange forward, letting vocals and instruments enjoy the spotlight. Its treble is more open and airy as well, giving it a lighter and brighter character compared to the Black.

    FIBAE 3’s stage is wider but has less depth than the Black. This gives it a rounder stage with more even proportions but the forwardness of its midrange makes it feel quite intimate. Details are more apparent on the FIBAE 3 but the Black is more musical and inviting and draws you into its warm embrace.

    FIBAE Black comparo.jpg
    Top: FIBAE 3, Left: FIBAE Black, Right: FIBAE 2.​

    Conclusion

    I know it’s a term that gets thrown around loosely but the FIBAE Black is just an intensely musical IEM. With its single balanced armature driver, the Black has a very cohesive presentation which adds to the naturalness of its sound and enhances its earthy, organic style.

    It’s not the most technical IEM and not suitable for those who prefer an analytical or reference sound. With better extension on either end, this would be a serious flagship contender. But I can’t really take points away for that because the Black isn’t trying to be anything except for what it is.

    The Black is designed for pure, unadulterated enjoyment of music and it delivers in spades. With its supremely comfortable 3D-printed shells, reasonable price and unpretentious character, there’s a heck of a lot to like about the Black.

    Specifications
    • Single proprietary Balanced Armature
    • Pressure Optimizing Design
    • 108.5dB @1kHz @0.1V
    • Low %THD
    • 5.2 Ohm @1kHz (+-0.8 Ohm 10Hz-20kHz)
    • 3D printed acrylic shell
    • 10Hz-16000Hz (+-10dB into IEC 60318-4 coupler)
    • Custom or Universal fit
    *This review was originally posted on my blog. You can check out my other reviews here.