Custom Art Harmony 8.2

General Information

Custom Art's Flagship model - reloaded !

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Pros: Sounds great from any source, masterful tuning, A+ treble decay, uncongested sound, emotive vocals, good sized stage, great value
Cons: None for me (I can't find any other then the nozzle on the demo being a bit short and that isn't really a con worth listing)
Introduction
                Reviewer Introduction
                Product Introduction
Technical Specifications
Sound Quality
Signature Overview
                                Sound Stage/Imaging
                                Resolution
                                Transparency
                                Layering and Separation
                                High End
                                Mids/Vocals
                                Lows
                Signature In Depth
Comparisons
Pairing
Suggestions For Improvement
Conclusions
 
 
 
 IMG_6340.jpg  
 
 
 
 
Custom Art Harmony 8.2: Brown Belt in Everything
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(Apologies for the lack of photos, I mailed the sample back before I took all the pics I wanted to take!)
 ​

Introduction

 ​
Reviewer Introduction
 ​
               I am both a stereophile and an audiophile.  I am an audiophile so as to further my enjoyment of the music I consider essential in life.  Life without music isn’t much life at all, when I’m able to hear more detail or the song better rendered the reason for seeking out exceptional audiophile gear becomes is clear.
 
               A big THANK YOU goes out to @Barra for organizing the US tour and @Piotrus-g for lending me the 8.2’s for review.  I am grateful for the opportunity to review the best CustomArt has to offer.  I demoed the acrylic universal version of the 8.2.  I had a difficult time finding a tip that worked for me but after much experimenting found the double flanged clear white tips to work good and allow me to hear the IEM as intended by Piotr.  I chose the title of this review Brown Belt In Everything because in Jiu-Jitsu a brown belt is right before black and because one of the most legendary MMA fighters was a brown belt in everything (more on that later).
 
Product Introduction
 
              The 8.2 is the current revision of the Harmony 8 that Piotr crafted in 2014.  The current iteration features 8 drivers in a single phase four way crossover network with four bore holes: 2xhigh, 2xlow, 2xmid and 2xfull frequency range.  The 2xfull range drivers help form a coherent and balanced sound. The universal model was incredibly small.  I thought my A12’s were small but these are far smaller.  One of the things that sets Piotr apart is the silicone coating he applies to the insides of the acrylic shells to isolate the drivers and prevent noise such as ringing which can occur in BA designs.  This IEM was also designed with a low impedance so that it would sound great from any source.  
 

Technical Specifications

 
8 Balanced Armatures
10Hz-20000Hz (+-10dB into 711 IEC coupler)
4-way crossover in Single Phase configuration
Dual Low, Dual full-range, Dual mid, Dual tweeter
118dB @1kHz @0.1V
15 Ohm @1kHz
Silicone or Acrylic body
17.5 Ohm DC
 

Sound Quality

 ​
Signature: Overview
 ​
Sound Stage/Imaging:
 
                I found the stage to be large in all directions and slightly wider than deep.  The stage you hear will vary by source with this monitor.  I hear a medium stage with my Mojo, a medium stage with my iPhone 5 and a spacious large stage with my ALO CDM being fed by Mojo.  Imaging is TOTL quality with instruments being clearly defined in stage.  I’ve heard more air between instruments in a few other TOTL monitors but you will have no trouble clearly telling where each instrument is being played from with little effort.
 
Resolution:
 
                I am hearing details from the 8.2’s that I have never heard before, especially in the upper mids, vocals and highs.  The 8.2’s are not detail monsters but on a scale from A-F the detail I’m hearing would be a solid B+.
 
Transparency:
 
                The monitor completely disappears.  The challenge with transparency is to provide a natural tone that doesn’t sound like it’s being produced from inside your head.  Transparency is the most significant hallmark of a TOTL monitor in my opinion and the 8.2 performs this feat flawlessly.  The 8.2 was transparent from all my sources.  The balanced tuning lends itself to the transparent sound of this monitor.
 
Layering and Separation:
 
                I never heard congestion from the 8.2’s even when listening to technical death metal.  This is because of the polite mid and sub bass which keeps sound of the IEM fast.  A good amp like the ALO CDM will help increase the separation and layering with this IEM although I don’t see it as necessary.  Overall separation and layering are above average.   
 
High end:
 
               The treble is not sparkly and doesn’t cross into that line into ear fatigue/discomfort territory that sparkly monitors can induce in some people.  The highs are slightly north of neutral and very clear.  Treble decay is very good and both upper mids and highs are quite detailed.  The brightness is balanced with the warmth so that nothing is missing yet nothing feels v shaped either.  The precision tuning of the high end is apparent when you hear cymbals crash with high resolution and then decay for a very long time with good detail.   
 
Mids/Vocals:
 
               Some other reviewers have said this is a mid-forward monitor I would not go that far as I don’t believe the mids standout more than a hair from the rest of the frequencies.  I hear a nearly completely balanced monitor with a slight bump to sub bass and an even slighter bump to mid bass.  Don’t think that these two bumps in the frequency response are going to stand out because the 8.2 is remarkably balanced across the spectrum.  In no way do these bumps obscure detail as the monitor is not warm enough for that to occur. 
 
               These are warm but detailed mids, the degree of warmth is the bare minimum necessary to make the IEM smooth.  Both male and female vocals are slightly closer to the front of the stage and sound like they emanating from a place further inside your ear canal toward the center of your head than the rest of the sound.  This creates more emotion in the sound and a high resolution vocal range as the vocals are more segregated from the rest of the frequencies.  Those looking for a detailed and emotive vocal presentation should look to the 8.2. 
 
Lows:
 
               The 8.2 isn’t the deepest reaching or hardest hitting IEM and with regard to punch it jabs instead of throwing knockout blows.  You can feel the punch of the sub bass but it is tight and controlled so as to not obscure the high level of detail retrieval the monitor presents.  Imagine how a boxer quickly pulls back his jab after it’s thrown-the 8.2 is similar.  I do not find mid or sub bass lacking.  Both mid and sub bass decay less than the high end does which gives a fast feel to the sound.  Bass texture is good but not spectacular-it’s plenty for my taste.  I was worried that my doom/stoner metal would sound neutered with this IEM since this genre is bass heavy with regard to the down-tuned, highly textured and amped guitar sounds employed in this genre but to my pleasure they sounded rich, detailed, thick and plenty heavy.
 
Signature: In Depth
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IMG_1286.jpg
 
               There is a saying among Mixed Martial Arts fans: “Fedor was the greatest fighter to have ever lived because he was a brown belt in everything.”  You couldn’t point to one thing and say: “He’s better at that than everyone else.”  It was the way he put it all together that created the masterpieces we who we saw during his reign.  The pinnacle of his career was his defeat of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in their first match. 
 
               More than just brutes bashing each other in for prize money MMA is a dance and flow of hard earned techniques, improvisation, cunning and mastery of will and endurance.  A true master in his prime is never forgotten by true fans and his legend lives on long after he’s gone.  Such is the legacy of Fedor, a man who was the first in MMA to blend explosive striking, Sambo/Judo style takedowns and ground and pound into a single continuous flow that left opponents bewildered and defeated.  The Custom Art Harmony 8.2 is a lot like Fedor. 
 
               The 8.2 doesn’t have the hardest hitting sub bass, it doesn’t have the most sparkly treble, it doesn’t have the most textured bass or the most spacious soundstage but it merges the elements into a seamless flow that’s emotional, detailed and spacious.  A Shrine of Clouds from Angellore’s La Litanie Des Cendres album elicits a strong emotional response as the voice of the vocalist sounds so intimate from the 8.2’s.  KzR’s visceral screams and howls are presented with excellent decay and extension against the contrast of the chaotic maelstrom of his feverish 10 string guitar playing on The Archer from Bölzer’s album Hero .  Yet KzR’s voice is not lost in the turbulent black vortex as the 8.2 renders everything with good detail and separation so that the layers can be pinpointed and isolated with ease if so desired.  Due to it’s jab like bass the 8.2 is able to keep up with speed demons like Archspire, Infant Annihilator and Necrophagist with ease all the while maintaining good separation/detail and avoiding congestion.
 
               When discussing the 8.2 balance is a term you’ll hear from Piotr and other reviewers.  This balanced tuning is a big part of the detail, clarity and separation I am hearing.  The 8.2 is balanced with a hint of warmth.  I prefer neutral signatures to have a slight bass bump which makes the sound more tactile as the air in the ear canal is more compressed, vibratory and alive.  The 8.2 does this balancing act the right way with a small bump in the sub bass and an even smaller one in the mid bass.  A small bit of warmth goes a long way, much the same way a chef will add a pinch of a spice to his dish.  The dual full range drivers are something that not every IEM maker employs and with regard to the 8.2 they go a long way toward creating the natural flow, balance and coherency I’m hearing.
 

Comparisons

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 ​
8.2vs64 Audio ADEL A12 w/MAM Module(Best module for A12 In my opinion):
 ​
                The 8.2 has more detail in the mids, upper mids and highs than the A12.  It’s highs extend further than the A12 and decay longer.  They are also more present and closer to the stage.  The A12’s soundstage is significantly larger in all directions than the 8.2’s.  A12 has far more powerful and authoritative sub and mid bass that hits much harder than the 8.2’s.  A12 has more textured mid and sub bass.  The 8.2’s have more forward and intimate vocals than A12’s.  A12 has thicker mids.  8.2 sounds faster due to it’s controlled bass while the A12 is more fun.  Both are warm with the A12 being quite a bit warmer.  They are both very transparent monitors.  The 8.2 does well at all genres, the A12’s sound great with Rap, Hip Hop, R&B, Jazz and Stoner/Doom metal.  The A12’s needs a powerful Amp like the ALO CDM, only then do they exceed the 8.2’s in nearly all categories.  The 8.2’s sound great from any source.   
 

Pairings

 ​
iPhone5 & Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge:
 
               I like that the tuning for the monitor is such that people don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on sources and amplifiers to get great sound.  For example I experience a very significant downgrade in sound when using my A12’s at the gym with my S7E but when I switch over the the 8.2’s I get exceptional sound out of it (both phones pair very well with the 8.2’s).  I didn’t notice very much lost detail between them and my Mojo or Mojo + ALO CDM.  I did notice that the iPhone5 and GS7E were not as dynamic or spacious as the CDM.  No hiss detected from the 8.2’s.
 
Chord Mojo:
 
               Switching over to Mojo the stage expanded slightly as compared to the phones, treble became a hair more recessed, both mid and sub bass gained some weight and the separation, imaging and depth improved.  No hiss detected from the 8.2’s.
 
MOJO + ALO CDM:
 
               Adding the CDM to the chain (Macbookpro Jriver MC20 bitperfect à Mojo à CDM à 8.2 / S7E UAPP bitperfect à Mojo à CDM) resulted in more dynamism.  The soundstage became even larger in all directions and air between the instruments and thus separation increased simultaneously as imaging improved.  Treble took on a bit more sparkle and the bass notes had more weight.  No hiss detected from the 8.2’s with the CDM in low gain mode(which had more than enough volume).    
 
Suggestions For Improvement
 
                Make the nozzles on the universals longer to make the tips easier to put on.
 

Conclusions

 ​
               One word jumps out at me when thinking about the 8.2 after having spent some time with it: value.  The 8.2 is certainly deserving of the TOTL moniker.  It costs a fair bit less than many other TOTL monitors.  You get a nice warm neutral-ish signature that pairs well with nearly all sources and sounds great out of a mobile phone.  You don’t need to buy expensive DACs, DAPs, Amps or cables to get great sound with the 8.2’s.  The 8.2 is a brown belt in everything and probably one of the best values in the IEM world for those looking to break into the TOTL bracket. 
Ike1985
Ike1985
I was going to cancel my review because it isn't fair to assess an IEMs potential with a poor seal but luckily I finally got a good fit. Piotr has already addressed the issue and he told me it's fixed-in fact he did so right after this review was posted. A testament to Customart's customer service!
Kerouac
Kerouac
Some great review you wrote on the H8.2 => compliments! Besides that it's written very well, it also matches my own opinion. Although the H8.2 is not a specialist (it didn't immediately wow me at first listen), once you spend more time with it, you'll realise that it does everything right! Still love this monitor (owning a custom for almost 8 months), which I'm using on a regular basis. And yes, a good fit/seal is always essential for its sq end result.
Ike1985
Ike1985
Thank you! Yes It won't jump out at you with a V shaped signature or a dynamic driver but once the brain adjusts the sound of the 8.2's you're treated to a sublime experience at a very low price.
Pros: Coherency; Superb Bass and Mids; Stellar soundstage
Cons: Price; Highs are too subdued for my taste
harmonycover.jpg

TOTL (Top-of the line) is something you hear quite often around Head-Fi. The cream of the crop of the audio-world. While that may be true in most instances, investing into a 1200$+ product seems unreasonable at best. With the law of diminishing returns kicking in fast and unrelentless, buying the most expensive product might turn out disappointing.

I have listened to a lot of gear over the years. Be it 10$ earbuds or 1500$ custom-IEMs. With the rapid growth of audio in both quality and quantity, buying High-End gear seems not all that worth it. The gap is closing fast.

With that premise in mind, many have challenged this very belief. One of them being Piotr Graniski and CustomArt. I have a deep respect for what he has accomplished. From hobbyist to full-fledged professional. Piotr began his audio journey quite like the rest of us - from initial interest in better audio gear. He subsequently began experimenting with his own designs, delving deeper and deeper into the art and craft of making custom-molded IEMs. I always wanted one of his designs, but I never took the plunge...

Enter Harmony 8.2 by CustomArt

Disclaimer: The Harmony 8.2 were send to me as part of an European tour. I am not affiliated with CustomArt in any shape or form.

Specifications:

  • 8 Balanced Armatures
  • 10Hz-20000Hz
  • 4-way crossover in Single Phase configuration: Dual Low, Dual full-range, Dual mid, Dual tweeter
  • 118dB @1kHz @0.1V
  • 15 Ohm @1kHz
  • Silicone or Acrylic body


Build Quality:

Keep in mind that we are looking at a universal variant of the custom model; take the following with a grain of salt:

Overall build is exceptional. The tour model is done in a dark brown/reddish colour, featuring an amber coloured faceplate with a CA logo on the left and Harmony 8.2 logo on the right. The acrylic looks wonderful in sunlight. The translucent body has no blemishes and bubbles to speak of. Finish is smooth around the edges. The 2-Pin connector sits flush around the socket. Perfect.

The CA H8.2 is available in both acrylic and the more soft silicone. Piotr is more known for the latter, but neither is inferior to the other. One can clearly see that the guy knows his craft.

Isolation is quite stellar. While it does not fully seal like customs, isolation is amazing nonetheless. Around -20dB across the board. Be careful when on the road.


harmonypic1.jpg

harmonypic2.jpg

harmonypic4.jpg


Sound Analysis:

Keep in mind that a universal monitor is seated differently from a custom one. Due to the different distance to the eardrum, perception of sound will vary from your experience. In particular soundstage and treble are mostly affected by it.

Pairing:

- 15Ohm and 118dB/mW makes for easy listening out of almost anything
- Some hiss was noted with phones
- Neutral and bright sounding DACs will be your best match.
- Some sources were surprisingly better than others; from terrible sounding to pure eargasm

General observations:

- Soft tonality, relaxed listen
- Midrange is forward sounding
- Soundstage is grand and does portray an "out-of-head" image, depth is A+
- Bass decay is unusually long for Balanced Armatures; almost DD-like.
- Bass extension is above average.
- Treble is subdued; too much for my taste.


harmonyfreq.png
(done with AudioTools and my IMM-6 microphone from Dayton; similar to here)


General sound-signature is mid-forward with slightly elevated bass and relaxed treble. A soft and mellow listen. The H8.2 is quite balanced, but definitely warmer than neutral.

While the sound of the Harmony 8.2 is balanced, both bass and mids are the high points of the 8.2. With Balanced Armatures, my general experience is fast and detailed bass. However the Harmony is atypical, with its bass being slower in both decay and impact. The low-frequencies are north of neutral, although quite even in balance. The bass in combination with the mids make the H8.2 sound very lush and full. Somewhere inbetween Dynamic Driver and Balanced Armature.

Lower mids are slightly leaner, but still have a nice body which adds to a natural tonality of the sound. Upper mids are smooth and detailed, though the accentuated 2kHz range adds to the fullness of sound without added grain. The organic nature of the sound makes both female and male vocals sound very realistic, albeit slightly congested with bad recordings.

Treble is to me, the weakest part of the overall experience. The highs got defused, adding to the overall smooth and relaxed nature of the monitor. Linearity is very good, until around 8kHz. After that it rolls off quite notably. Detail is still available in spades, however it is not exemplified - just enough to paint the complete picture of the sound, making the sound more forgiving in the process.

H8.2 soundstage is stellar in width/depth/height. Most of my other gear, including some great monitors, like the FLC8s and LZ A4 sound much more closed in, particularly with depth and height. While most are comparable in width, depth is the achilles-heel for many lower-priced IEMs.

I found the layering and separation of vocals and instruments to be rather average, due to some lack of airiness. Imaging features good placement of instruments and vocals, and in general it has a pretty convincing positioning of most sound elements. Even so, detail retrieval is outstanding, making my FLC8s look just average.

Comparison time - vs. FLC8s (~330$):

(Filter-combination used: Red(ULF)-None(LF)-Gray(MF/HF))

The FLC8s sounds much more lean in both bass and midrange. The lack of the LF makes the FLC8s more impactful, adding decay, compared to the other combinations. While the H8.2 wins in detail retrieval and soundstage width, depth and height, the FLC8s is superior in tonality. For me the less vibrant midrange and more extended treble, does help in perceiving the FLC8 as cleaner and more neutral.

vs. LZ A4 (195$):

(Filter-combination used: Black(B)-Green(F))

The LZ A4 sounds quite similar in tonality. This is where the similarities end. While the width is almost identical, both height and depth are clearly better articulated on the H8.2. Clarity and detail retrieval are superior on the H8.2, though the treble is slightly better extended and more prominent on the A4. The A4 sounds like 80% of the 8.2 at ~1/6 the cost.

Conclusion:

Let's face it: 1150$+ is steep. And my pocket-money does only go so far.

However without the TOTL race to the top, our beloved market would look different. Much different, actually. 10% can make all the difference in the world. If it does for you, and you like smooth and natural sound, take a look at the Harmony 8.2.
piotrus-g
piotrus-g
Actually you can order them as universal, we will do it per special request.
Jimster480
Jimster480
Thanks alot for this review.
I'll be looking to buy some CustomArt models in the future. So far I'm not sure which one.
wormsdriver
wormsdriver
Very good review. I was part of the tour in the U.S. and I feel you managed to put into words very well how I felt about the Harmony 8.2.
Pros: Bass and mids coherency, balanced natural sound
Cons: Less highs, less details
Before I will start with this attempt to review, I would like to thank to Piotr ad Custom Art, who provide Harmony 8.2 for European tour, which I was honored to be part of.
Custom Art is located in Poland and they were found in 2012 by Piotr Granicki. CA is focusing on production of custom made IEM form two materials. Acrylic and Silicon. Advantages and disadvantages of bot are described at CA site. At this moment CA offer five models, from one driver per side unit up to 8 driver per side. Last one is called Harmony 8.2. 8 mean eight drivers, two is mean, that this is second version if these earphones. CA work so fare with balanced armatures only and eight of those in Harmony are set in four way configuration - Dual Low, Dual full-range, Dual mid, Dual tweeter. Frequency range is from 10Hz up to 20kHz. Ordering process is quite common – model, material, design, ear impressions, etc. Current lead time is about 5-6weeks.
 
I was second in line in this tour and I got Harmony 8.2 after some adventures with Czech post office last week. H8.2 which were provided for tour are made from acryl and they are universal version shells. As I mentioned CA is mainly focusing on custom versions, but upon the request they are able offer universal shells too. Harmony on tour have orange transparent face plate, so you can see all insides, shell itself is too transparent, but color is brown, honey like. On left face plate is CA logo, on right is model signature. Termination for cable is standard 2pin, so there is plenty of possibilities to fine tune sound with cable switching. I read some complains about universal shell fit and seal, but I´m lucky and I do not share these complains. I found Harmony quite comfortable in fact. Only nozzle is a bit bigger than usually ( 4 holes in it ), but I could use both of my mi favorite tips easily – SpiralDot and SpinFit. Although in the end I stick with SpinFits, which I found more convenient over JVC tips.
I can´t say, that my first listening impressions make me hyper excited. Past last few weeks I listen mostly earphones with dynamic drivers and switch from that to purely balanced armatures was not easy. I really like liveliness of dynamic drivers. I found, that on hybrid IEMs, is not easy to tune DD and BA drivers together, but there are few pieces on market, which are tuned pretty well. BA drivers may sound a bit boring compare to DD earphones. And that exactly was my first kiss with H8.2. Boring, not interesting. I did not use stock cable, provided with H8.2, I used my own PlusSound Audio X Series ( Silver + Gold Type6 Litz Cryo treated ) instead. I really like this cable, is flexible, comfortable and yet sturdy.
 
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I listen to H8.2 for few days and after brain burning I start collect my thoughts for this review. So I do not consider H8.2 boring anymore. In fact I really like their warmer sound. From top to bottom. I think, that ,, weak point “ of H8.2 are trebles, which are a bit distant on background. I do miss more sparkles in trebles. That led me to another two points of my criticism - not exactly extraordinary detail retrieval and transparency. On both of these can be H8.2 outperform by some even cheaper rivals. However middle band together with low end are where H.2 rule. Coherency between those two is one of the best. Bass is strong and deep, when it should be and mids are nicely smooth. Instrument separation is good, although not exceptional, but instrument placement on scene is precise. Sound stage is not widest I ever heard, but is for sure above average. General sound character of Harmony 8.2 is calm, but can offer nice joy from music listening. H8.2 are suitable for listeners, who like warmer sound, not over-detailed, for longer listening sessions. H8.2 are relatively versatile in terms of music genres. I did not found any music which sound extra bad or extra good. Everything I have on my card form classical to Heavy Metal is quite listenable.
 
At this moment I have at my disposal 3 DAPs – Shanling M1, xDuoo X10 and iPhone 6s with Hiby music player in it. From all these I really like combination with xDuoo most. X10 is balanced and detailed and so fare I did not found earphones which will sound bad with it. With iP6s was too warm combo for me and Shanling is good small player, but is not that good as X10, which are much more detailed and it fit to H8.2 better.
 
IMG_5494.jpg
IMG_5495.jpg
 
 
At this moment I have no at home any multi BA driver earphones. I sold EE Athena ( direct competitor ) and my EE Spartans are on tour I did organized here for my headphone Czech and Slovak friends. Anyway just from the memory. My feelings from Athena were similar as I have with H8.2. Very first listening was not really stunning, bat after some time I found reason to like them. It took some cable experiments, than I got result, but in the end – nice. Athena are better on resolution and has wider sound stage. But Harmony sound to me more balanced and If I would chose Athena or Harmony … I will take Harmony with no hesitation.
 
My personal opinion is that Harmony have very hard position compare to many cheaper especially hybrid models from Asia, but considering how fare Custom Art get after 5 years of their existence, I strongly believe, that we have many too look forward from Pioter and his team. Great job at Custom Arts. Thank you.
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