Custom Art Harmony 8.2

Average User Rating:
4.625/5,
  1. Ike1985
    4.5/5,
    "Custom Art Harmony 8.2: Brown Belt in Everything"
    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
     ​
    (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
     ​
    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

     ​
     ​
    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. 
    piotrus-g, Kerouac, eldss and 2 others like this.
  2. FUYU
    4.0/5,
    "Deep Sound - The CustomArt Harmony 8.2"
    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.
    wormsdriver, h1f1add1cted and mrazik like this.
  3. mrazik
    4.5/5,
    "Almost ideal Harmony"
    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.
     
    IMG_5493.jpg
     
    IMG_5492.jpg
     
     
    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.
    proedros likes this.
  4. MuZo2
    4.5/5,
    "8.2 days of Harmony"
    Pros - Bass quality, balanced sound signature, Spacious, 3d soundstage
    Cons - Bit rolled off highs
        I would like to thank @piotrus-g and @Bananenbrot for German tour for CustomArt Harmony8.2 , Music One and Music Two iems.
     
    IMG_20161028_171405.jpg
     
    Background: I think Piotr and I joined head-fi about 8-years back.  We both have been active on CIEM DIY thread. I have been following his post for quite some time, he is very knowledgeable and open to share. He is still very active on thread and provides very valuable information to new comers who want to try DIY route. During a headphone exhibition I met him and we had a very good discussion about how he decides on driver and how he tunes his in ear monitors and process of manufacturing. During the event I also tried various iems including his upcoming FIBAE lineup and was quiet impressed with single driver iem , it will surprise a few. I also tries flagship from CustomArt, Harmony8.2 and frankly speaking I was a bit underwhelmed. During the discussion I came to know about the ongoing demo tour for CustomArt iems in Germany. Next week I got in contact with @Bananenbrot and he readily agreed to add me to the list. Communication and tour arrangement was great from @Bananenbrot.
     
    IMG_20161028_171320.jpg
     
     
     
    I received the Harmony8.2 iems at work and was surprised to find music one and music two. I couldn’t resist temptation to try the iems before I got home. Especially as I had just had 7-days I wanted to use make most use of them.  Thought the tour had universal Harmony8.2 its actually a modified custom iem.
    For 8 driver is surprisingly small. It has four acoustic ports.
     
    IMG_20161028_171550.jpg
     
     
    Sound: On the first listen was again not impressed similar to what I heard at exhibition. I changed the tips used wide bore tips as I thought other tips might have covered acoustic tubes. After a while the iem starts to grow on you and you start appreciating all the technicalities of the high end iem.
    It has spacious sound [don’t mix it up with soundstage], nice instrument separation and note thickness. Detail retrieval is quite good. On one of the live albums where there was a interview section between songs there was slight noise of jacket rubbing against the mic and a small knock on table which I had never heard before with different iems.
     
    It has a balanced sound, not analytical. See below pic from Sonion.
    2016-10-28_15-17-12.jpg
     
    Soundstage:  Soundstage is above average, I won’t use expansive or other terminology for this iem. But the magic Pitor has done to make it sound spacious and to generate a sense of space around the instruments is quiet nice. Depth and height perception is quite good.
     
    Bass: What you would appreciate is bass quality, it has very nice texture, speed and decay. There is no Bass kick, punch or rumble but people will appreciate sense of weight and impact. Detail in bass are nicely revealed. Critics of balanced armature driver who complain of quality compared to dynamic drivers should hear Harmony8.2
     
    Mids: Again very unique compared to bass, it’s a bit hard to describe. It has bit of air, highly resolving without being harsh or grainy or thin. I won’t call them lush or warm as some have described it, but it might be difference between uiem and ciem and tip selection. But I liked how mids are presented. Both male and female vocals sounded very good but a slight bit distant. In simple terms I would say mids are natural  but not smooth organic.
     
    Highs: The treble response was exceptionally smooth, delicate and precise. I think this was Pitor choice for natural reference tuning. I think Harmony Pro has more extension from what I heard. Personally I would have liked a bit more sparkle in highs.
     
    Measurements:
     
    Harmony.jpg
     
     
     
    Conclusion: Those who are in market for high end CIEM should try Harmony8.2 for sure. There are two tours currently running.
     
    US tour:  http://www.head-fi.org/t/818111/customart-us-ciem-demo-lineup-tour-including-harmony-8-2-and-ei-xx
    Europe tour: http://www.head-fi.org/t/823648/the-custom-art-harmony-8-2-european-demo-tour
  5. cvbcbcmv
    4.5/5,
    "Custom Art Harmony 8.2: The Next Big Flagship"
    Pros - Resolution, clarity, balance, mids, great lows, versatile, isolation, silicone or acrylic
    Cons - Silicone can be hard to take out/put in, gentle highs might not be for everyone
    Intro:

    Well, there’s a new flagship in town—this time from Polish company Custom Art, headed by Piotr Granicki, who is known for creating a fantastic product at an affordable price. I have previously reviewed the EI.XX from Custom Art, and that review can be found here. The EI.XX blew me away for the price, but always with that caveat: for the price.

    Most of my listening time is spent with flagships, and the EI.XX is simply for a different market than the flagship market. However, the Harmony 8.2, an update on Custom Art’s previous Harmony and Harmony Pro line, is in every way Custom Art's flagship—the best of their technological advancements put into one product.

    So, while I gave the EI.XX plenty of slack when comparing it directly against the flagships considering the massive price jump, the Harmony 8.2 will get none. Custom Art says this is the best they have, and I am going to treat it that way.

    Without further ado, let’s dive in and see what the Harmony 8.2 can do.

    Order Process:

    The Harmony 8.2 can be ordered directly from Custom Art through their website. The price is just about $1000 USD when converted from PLN. This puts the Harmony 8.2 at a price point below the majority of flagships on the market. If it can truly compete, this is a big plus.

    Of course, as with any custom in ear, the customer must get ear impressions on their own time to send to the lab in Poland. This process typically runs $50-100; I won’t get into the details of that here.

    Next, the customer has the choice between Silicone and Acrylic. All of the monitors I have ever used, including monitors from Custom Art, have been acrylic, so I made the decision to try silicone with this monitor. I will go more into the fit of the silicone vs. acrylic in its respective section, but each has pros and cons.

    Lastly, design! Custom Art is very good at making accommodations for specific requests, so if there is a design idea you have in your head, Piotr can probably bring it to life. Again, I’ll discuss my design specifically in its section.

    Box/Accessories:


    Custom Art does a fantastic job with their presentation of the monitor and included accessories. The monitor is shipped in a nice presentation box with friendly welcoming documentation that explains basic care of the monitor. Impressively, they put each monitor in a Pelican 1010 case with a cleaning tool and drying pellet. The Peli 1010 is a fantastic case and is perfect for IEM’s. It’s not cheap either, so it’s wonderful to see Custom Art include it.

    Design:

    For the two monitors I have had from Custom Art, I have left creative control with design in Piotr’s hands since I love to have something unique. The design I received with this monitor is white solid with metallic orange swirl, and I’m quite happy with the result! The orange accents look very nice in person, and Piotr and I agree that it kind of looks like candy! I know it sounds a bit strange, but the look is very “summery,” fun, and looks great in ear! I have never had a bright-looking monitor, and I really like the ear presence because of it.

    Enough talk, let’s talk a look at some pictures!

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    Build Quality: I do think that being crafted out of silicone takes away from some durability compared to acrylic, but this is to be expected. In my experience with both this silicone monitor and Custom Art’s acrylic monitors, their craftsmanship is top notch, and I have no fear about using them in real life scenarios with a sense of trust that they will be tough enough to take it.

    Fit/Comfort:

    Now let’s take a moment to talk about fit and comfort, especially silicone vs. acrylic.

    In my experience, Custom Art is very good at accurately crafting a CIEM to a set of ear impressions, and as I expected, a good fit was no problem here. Because of this, long term comfort is exceptional. The silicone of my monitors really molds to my ears, and the slight bending of the material means that the slightest imperfections the monitor might have will bend to fit my ear. This is without any doubt a monitor I can keep in all day long without any issues.

    Isolation: This is another area where the silicone helps the Harmony 8.2. It’s hard to describe, but the silicone feels more dense in the ear, and seems to fill into the canal better to create a true seal with superior isolation to the best acrylic monitors. For all of my practical tests of isolation (ie. listening to music while people watched TV in the same room) the Harmony 8.2 passed with flying colors, isolating better than any acrylic monitor I have heard.

    Cable/Connectors: Overall, I am quite happy with the cable provided with the Harmony 8.2. The memory wire stays put once you line it up to your ear and is not an annoyance. Microphonics are low, and the connectors feel very strong, even on my silicone monitor, and I feel confident that they can take plenty of pulling without coming loose.

    Silicone vs. Acrylic: This is a tough one. I have no fear about durability with this silicone monitor, but I would say that from overall feeling, acrylic seems like it would be a bit tougher than acrylic. For the most part, silicone isolates and fits better than acrylic, but if an acrylic monitor is done well, which in my experience Custom Art absolutely makes a good acrylic product, then an acrylic monitor will isolate good enough and be very comfortable.

    Another plus of acrylic is it’s much easier to take out an put in. Taking out and putting in an acrylic monitor takes about ¼ of a second for me, but the silicone monitor is a bit more of a hassle. You have to carefully place the helix under your ear, and it just takes a bit more work to get everything fit in. If you have to constantly take your monitors in and out, this will get very annoying, but once they’re in and you can keep them in, I think the experience is better than acrylic. In terms of overall practicality, especially if this will be your main monitor, I would probably recommend acrylic.


    Sound:

    Sources:

    I used a variety of sources with the Harmony 8.2. These sources included the iPhone 6s Plus, Fiio X3ii, Chord Mojo, Questyle QP1R, and Astell n Kern AK100ii

    I won’t go into detail of how the Harmony 8.2 sounded through each high end player. As expected, a high end player pairs well with a high end monitor, and I had no surprises when listening to any of my players. A specific source I like to talk about is how a monitor sounds through a phone. Of course, putting this monitor through a high end source will allow it to produce sound at its full potential, but not everyone wants to buy these sources, and it attests to a monitor’s versatility when it sounds great out of a phone. I’m pleased to report that I had an excellent experience listening to the Harmony 8.2 out of my phone, and while there was obviously something missing compared to the high end sources, the sound was still exceptional.

    Sound Signature:

    My best one-word description for how the Harmony 8.2 sounds is balanced. It’s not 100% perfectly balanced; I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a reference monitor, but it is quite balanced in a way that will suit most people’s preferences. I’ll get into the specifics in that respective section, but my first reaction when listening to the Harmony 8.2 was the overall clarity and the luscious mids.

    Another word that comes to my mind when I listen to the Harmony 8.2 is musical. This might seem a bit strange since most flagship monitors should be “musical,” but that word never seemed accurate to me on any of my other monitors. The Harmony 8.2 has a way of presenting sound in a very pleasant, musical way that is very soft and appealing. It plays it safe, but it plays it well. In that regard, it reminds me of the Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered and its predecessor. I don’t think that the UERR is a monitor anyone would classify as particularly “fun,” but it’s well loved by the community for its simple, clear presentation. The Harmony 8.2 has very similar aspects to its sound signature.

    Soundstage:

    Let me preface this by saying that I would not classify the Harmony 8.2 as a monitor with a massive, wide open soundstage that seems to wrap around your head. However, I think this works in its favor. There is plenty of headroom, and I found that it easily transcends the barrier of sounding “like an IEM.” By all means, the Harmony 8.2 sounds like a full sized pair of cans. However, the soundstage is a touch more closed off than some of its competitors, and while it does fill your head, it’s just not quite at the level of some other monitors. The reason I think this works in its favor is because of its more controlled sound. It does what it does extremely well, and what it does is produce clear, musical, accurate sound. Monitors that have that wide open soundstage generally have different characteristics. They are usually not that balanced and have a heavy leaning toward a certain type of sound. If the soundstage was wider on the Harmony 8.2, it would simply be strange and out of place. The width of the soundstage, just like the sound overall, is precisely controlled.

    Clarity:

    As one would expect from this being a relatively balanced monitor, it is also clear as day! Everything from the sharp lows and luscious mids to the shimmery highs, everything is crystal clear without the slightest hint of muddiness.

    Lows:

    While the sound of the Harmony 8.2 is balanced, and I certainly would not say that it has rumbly bass for a true basshead, I was extremely pleased with the bass. Overall, its intensity is a touch heavier than neutral, and it’s controlled extremely well. With rap songs where deep bass is appropriate and necessary, the punchy lows are there. Surely, this is partially to do with the excellent silicone seal, but the way the lowest frequencies hit on the Harmony 8.2 is very special and unlike anything else I’ve heard except maybe the JH Layla.

    My favorite album to test strong bass is If You’re Reading this it’s Too Late by Drake. I was very impressed with the bass presence on the album overall, and my favorite individual song is “Energy” because it has very low frequency beats that are hard for a headphone to reproduce at all, let alone well. However, the Harmony 8.2 passed this test with flying colors, and I was extremely pleased.

    My opposing bass test with any monitor is to simply think about the bass when I’m listening to less bass-heavy music, and listen for moments where there is too much bass when it shouldn’t be there. Because the bass is so controlled, I can pleasantly say that on every single song that I listened to during my extensive testing with this monitor, I never felt like there was too much bass that didn’t belong.

    Mids:

    Ooooooh baby. The mids are hands down the best part of this monitor. It was the first thing I noticed, and still my favorite thing to this day. After Piotr read my review of the EI.XX, where I said I would’ve liked more mids, he told me thought I’d really like the Harmony 8.2. About 10 seconds into the first song I played I just started smiling at how right he was–the mids are really something.

    Loud, clear, and accurate are the words that come to mind. Overall, they’re the most apparent part of the sound signature, and it leads to very precise, detailed vocals. The Harmony 8.2 creates a sound like the artist is right there beside you, singing directly into your ear. Of course, the mids sound lovely on more simple, acoustic music like Vance Joy or Alison Krauss, but I was extremely pleased that the presence of the mids didn’t disappear on more complicated music, getting plagued by overpowering lows or highs.

    No matter the genre, the mids are right up front providing luscious, detailed vocals with a deep richness that makes this monitor so enjoyable to listen to.

    Highs:

    The highs on the Harmony 8.2 kind of slip by unnoticed, and I think that’s fitting for this sound signature. They’re not too distant, not too sharp, but just right. Deep extension is there, and I don’t think anyone will be disappointed by overly rolled off highs. The highs are rolled off, but it’s done in a very smooth, pleasant way. I have hated rolled off highs on many headphones since I love my shimmery high end, and I was completely pleased with their signature on the Harmony 8.2.

    Often on relatively neutral headphones, people complain about the sharpness of the highs, even though that’s what’s accurate. The Harmony 8.2 doesn’t have that problem. Because of how gentle they are, the highs are probably where the the monitor is least balanced, but it is done in a way that creates a very pleasurable experience. The highs are just faint enough that they are never harsh, and it creates a much more refined sound signature than if they were sharp and cutting.

    Comparisons:

    Shure SE846:

    In terms of pure performance, I’d say these two are quite close, with the Harmony 8.2 just beating it in overall clarity and tonal depth. I find the SE846 to have a much more V shaped sound, and the Harmony 8.2 to have more of a bell shaped sound. On the low end, the 846 barely takes the cake in terms of power, but the Harmony 8.2 isn’t about power, and I personally prefer the lows on it. For mids, the Harmony 8.2 wins hands down. For highs, the Shure SE846 probably wins with deeper extension. However, looking as a whole, I think the Harmony 8.2 is more elegant, musical, and has more overall depth and clarity than the 846.

    Ultimate Ears UE18 Pro:

    Let me preface this by saying I love my UE18’s very much. They were my first CIEM, and I always come back to them and love them. I was quite excited to discover that I preferred my Harmony 8.2 to my beloved UE18’s! Similar to the SE846, I’d have to give it to the Harmony 8.2 due to clarity and overall pleasant presentation. The UE18 is fun with its hard hitting low end, and I’d probably still recommend that over the Harmony 8.2 for the true basshead, but the 8.2 simply presents music in a more laid-back, enjoyable way. There’s something beautiful about a balanced sound, which I haven’t heard in awhile.

    JH Layla:

    Even though the Harmony 8.2 is Custom Art’s flagship, we do need to consider that the Layla is roughly 3 times the price. With that said, the Harmony 8.2 stands up very well. As expected, the Layla is going to beat its performance in most any head to head, but we’re talking about very small differences from one product to another that costs thousands of dollars more. In no way does the Layla win by a long shot or by a mile. It wins by a very humble amount.

    Comparing sound signatures, if the bass is turned down a bit on the Layla, maybe to about halfway, the sound signatures are similar, with the Layla’s having a bit more in the high end and the 8.2 having more emphasis on the mids.

    Noble K10:

    The K10 and the Harmony 8.2 I think are quite similar in their intentions: to be a solid all around monitor that can sound great with any type of music. Both succeed with flying colors, but I think the K10 is slightly more successful. Again, it costs more, but I do get more of a refined, artful presentation from the K10, as well as better performance overall. However, I want to reinforce that the Harmony is only footsteps behind, not miles. However, while it’s only footsteps behind in performance, it’s a significant amount behind in price.

    Comparing sound signatures, this is another situation where the K10 follows more of a V and the 8.2 more of a bell curve. The K10 doesn’t have quite as much focus on the mids and has a bit more in the lows and the highs.

    Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor:

    I do not own the UERR; I have only heard it briefly, so take this comparison with a grain of salt. I liked the UERR, but I did get that same feeling that I know many do: It’s just a little boring. Sure, it sounds fantastic, but it lacks that magic. I understand it’s trying to be balanced, not fun, but it just didn’t really do it for me. What I love about the Harmony 8.2 is that it’s balanced, but it still presents things musically in a way that is so exciting.

    Custom Art EI.XX:

    So, is the Harmony 8.2 a worthy step up from the EI.XX? Absolutely! The jump up is tremendous. Every aspect of the sound is improved, but especially the mids. Overall performance, soundstage, and clarity are improved tremendously, and it is by all means worth the extra money. Let me add that I loved the EI.XX very much, and I think it provides one of the best values on the market, but to me another $400 or so to get this outstanding product is a no brainer, and an even better value.

    Conclusion:

    The words that keep coming up in this review are precise, accurate, and controlled. I think those are the best 3 words to describe this monitor. Imagine a well-groomed business man in a tailored suit. He doesn’t draw too much attention, but he still has a tremendous amount of presence and earned respect. That’s a good way to describe the sound of the Harmony 8.2. Nothing particularly jumps out in an overpowering way, even the mids which are just very good without taking away from other aspects of the sound. This monitor knows exactly what it wants to do and does a fantastic job at providing top notch performance. No genres of music prove to be its downfall, and it can adapt very well to any situation.

    I also want to talk about on the comparisons because I don’t think they quite reflect the performance of the Harmony 8.2. With this flagship at $1000, I was getting inches close to the performance, sound quality, and overall joy of listening that I get from monitors that cost $500 to $2000 more. While spending more on one of those flagships is still an upgrade, spending $1000 gets you a fantastic sounding monitor that is better than some products that cost a little more, and nearly as good as products that cost a lot more. This product competes with the big boys, and while the highest end flagships might outperform the Harmony 8.2 in a technical head-to-head, there are certainly countless individuals who will enjoy the Harmony 8.2 better than one of those other flagships because of its sound signature.

    Overall, the Harmony 8.2 is one of the best values currently on the CIEM market. I see the perfect customer for this product being someone who is prepared to spend a good amount on audio, but the prices of some of the other flagships may be a bit much. Piotr believes in bringing top notch sound to the masses at a more affordable price, and that’s what he did. He successfully took performance from the high end and brought it down to a more affordable price point.

    Because of how balanced it is, just about anyone can like the sound; relatively, everyone can like the price. Piotr really outdid himself on making a top notch product, and it deserves to be treated as such. If this monitor retailed for $1500-$2000 I wouldn’t bat an eye and I would say that’s extremely reasonable for the performance. This just further proves the tremendous value the Harmony 8.2 offers.

    My Closing Words:

    The Harmony 8.2 is a true flagship that competes closely with every monitor I have heard, and other companies better start looking closely at what Custom Art has going on, because it seems like things are only going up from here.
    knopi, Carlsan, piotrus-g and 8 others like this.
  6. acain
    5.0/5,
    "Most advanced tuned piece of audio gear I ever stuck in my ear!"
    Pros - Well balanced natural sound, resolving details, easy to drive
    Cons - High end products come with a price, customs not for everyone
    The Custom Art Harmony 8.2
     
    Hi Head-Fi members and visiting audio lovers, my name is Adam and have been a long time member here on this forum.  I was lucky enough to have the chance to review the Harmony 8.2 custom in ear monitors, from The Custom Art.   A company located in Poland, ran and owned by Piotr Granicki also a member of Head-Fi.  If you have been around here long enough CA needs know introduction. Before I get started I would like to say thank you to Piotr for giving me the opportunity to be chosen to review the H8.2, I am in no way affiliated or being paid to write this review and is based on my honest opinion.  My review style may differ from other reviewers, and like to keep them simple for the average consumer. I don’t get into using graphs, special meters and charts.  There are plenty of great reviewers that go in depth and can explain sound better then me.  
     
    Over the years I have had the chance to review 2 other product for CA, including the Ei.3 and the Ei.xx that was collaborated with CA and Massdrop.  Ciem’s are widely used through the professional music industry.  But over the recent years have become very popular with audiophiles, music lovers and consumers that want the best products for their listening experience.  Customs can be a big jump from headphones, universal monitors and earbuds.  There are numerous steps to the process for customs, CA makes the jump very easy.  When I think about The Custom Art, customer service is the first thing that comes to my mind, because they are just that good at it. Customer service is a huge part to me when buying ciems.  When it comes to fit of the custom they need to be perfect for them to perform up to their full potential.  CA has easily been the best company that I have ever dealt with.  Although out of the 3 customs I own from them I have never had to send a pair back for a refit.  I have had other experiences with other companies, and it can be a pain in the ass to get them right.  So my hats off to CA for getting it right the first time, which doesn’t happen all the time.
     
    Here is a link to The Custom Art’s products below and there FB page.
    http://thecustomart.com/index.php
    https://www.facebook.com/thecustomart/?fref=nf
     
    The time came around and Piotr emailed me and asked what kind of design I would like.  Just like the last two times I left it up to Piotr own artistic freedom.  If you ask why I have done this, all you have to do is look at the rest of the customs he has created.  Up to now I have only owned acrylic monitors, Piotr asked if I would like to give silicone a try.  I am always up for something new, after receiving them I first struggled getting them in.  Silicone can very grippy against your skin and can take some time to get used to inserting them.  I have mixed feelings about the silicone.  But I have to say after they are in and come to body temperature, there is nothing more comfortable than these.  My acrylic monitors melt away into my ears, but the silicone ones just disappear.  I have to say it’s a trade off for me after I get them in the comfort is worth it.
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    I won’t talk much about packaging since customs pretty much come standard with a Pelican 1010 case.  CA also includes a small blue clamshell pouch that can be zippered.  Also you will get your welcome card to the CA family with the manufacturing date of your monitors (warranty card 12 months).   Packed inside the case is the bore cleaning tool and moisture absorbent pack.  The clamshell case works pretty well for keeping your monitors and cable tangle free, it even fits inside the Pelican case.  
     
    When it comes to build quality with customs, there either good or bad.  Some of the things that can go wrong are with the quality of the shell itself.  With acrylic shells you have to worry about bubbles and cracks.  But with 3D printing most of quality issues are resolved.  The monitors I received are silicone and were most likely poured by hand.  I received a pair that has a blue faceplate with CA’s logo in the middle.  The body of the shell is a glittery skin toned color, which I am very happy with.  The quality of my ciems is pretty much perfect if not perfect.  I used to be into DIY customs, and can tell you just trying to fit 2 balanced armatures in a shell is hard enough.  Piotr must be a magician for fitting 8 balanced armatures into each shell, and my ears are very small.  To fit all the tubes, wires, acoustic filter and crossovers into a small shell is an art form itself.
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    Now on to the sound, most my listening was done with my AK100ii and Samsung S7 Edge.  Surprisingly the H8.2 are pretty efficient to drive and sound pretty damn good straight out of my cell phone.  I listen to just about everything except country, but mostly what ever my daughter makes me listen to.  When I first placed the H8.2s into my ears I could tell it’s in the same bloodline of the Ei.xx.  The overall sound to me is very well balanced with a natural feel to it.  The low end is very comparable to the Ei.xx with slightly less impact but with better detail.  Having reviewed other products from CA Piotr is a master at tuning the low end to sound more like a dynamic driver.  When the bass hits I instantly get the image of a speaker breathing back and forth.  Bass is very well controlled and never takes over your listening experience.
     
    The mids have a very captivating sound and have a smoothness and slight warmth to them.  Every type of music I played male and female vocals were very detailed and precise.  The amount of presence you get from the mids is the perfect amount to be tuned with the lowers and upper frequencies.  The upper frequencies are just enough without being too much but might not be enough for treble heads.  Coming from the Ei.xx treble of the Ei.xx sounds on the brighter side but with the H8.2 retrieving more details in a natural way.  Its very hard to explain sound especially when everyone has a different sensitivity to sound.  
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    Whenever I review any kind of headphones, earbuds, speakers or customs, I like to throw in a pair of cheap headphones or earbuds on just to see how much more I can hear with what ever I am reviewing.  It’s truly amazing of how much more I can hear using the H8.2,  the amount of  details I hear across the board is just mind blowing.  Next time you listen to a high end pair of customs or anything else give it a try and throw in the pair of earbuds you get for free with your cell phone.
     
    Overall the H8.2s have to be the most advanced tuned listening device that I have ever stuck in my ear. They are tuned in such a way they sing with perfect harmony, the amount of details and balance is something special.  Piotr has given me the opportunity to review customs from his  most affordable, midrange to his top of the line products.  I know can hear why the H8.2 sits at the top of his product line up.  Custom Art has come a long way in this industry where we have many other companies to choose from.  There is a reason why this company continues to grow and is able to stay competitive.  Piotr is a very rare owner of a company, and is very hands on with the engineering and manufacturing of his products.  For example how often do you see owners of companies interacting directly with consumers on forums.  I could not recommend the H8.2 more if you are in the market for a high end ciem.  There are tons of reviewers that like to do critical listening for reviews, which is fine.  I am not a  technical kind of listener,  I do want my customs to make my music sound good.  And that is exactly what the Custom Art Harmony 8.2 monitors do.  They make the music I listen to sound balanced and natural with just enough bass impact to keep your music energized.  I joined Head-Fi for one reason, to find products that make listening to music more enjoyable.  Custom Art H8.2 do just that and makes me forget about anything else and lets me escape reality for awhile to just enjoy whatever I am listening at that time.  
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    Next to the Ei.xx
     
    To top it all off  Piotr offers customer service that seems to be lost in some companies.  If you ask any of Custom Arts customers, Piotr main goal is to make sure you are 100% satisfied with your customs.  He is very fast to answer any questions and responds to emails within a day if not the same day.  Custom Art makes the process of buying customs very easy and straightforward.   If you're not in the market for a TOTL custom they also offer customs that are very affordable.  Thanks for reading, don’t pass the chance up if you ever come across a Harmony 8.2 demo unit you will not be disappointed.
    knopi, Rollk2, piotrus-g and 6 others like this.
  7. twister6
    5.0/5,
    "The Natural Harmony!"
    Pros - beautiful design, silicone or acrylic shell, smooth natural tonality, impressive bass performance, very compact shell design.
    Cons - custom only (no universal version yet), a rather polite treble extension.

    The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.  The review was originally posted on my blog, and now I would like to share it with all my readers on head-fi.
    Manufacturer website: TheCustomArt, available for purchase directly from CA or MusicSanctuary.
    * click on images to expand.

     
    Intro.
     
    My introduction to CustomArt happened last year when I got an opportunity to test and to review their MassDrop special edition Ei.xx CIEM, covered in THIS write-up which also includes more info about the company.  Ever since that review, I stayed in touch with Piotr, the creative force/mind behind CA, and always enjoyed our occasional email exchanges which I found to be very educational about IEM design.  Even with success of Ei.xx Drops and the rising popularity of his original Harmony series which I’m sure keeps him busy, he was still always prompt with his replies and took his time to explain everything in details.  While talking to other head-fiers, many shared a similar experience when dealing with Piotr where everyone was treated as VIP, not just “chosen” reviewers.  This is important to know, to have a peace of mind that a company as small and young as CA stands behind their products and offers a quality support.
     
    After my Ei.xx review, the two things that stood out for me the most were the comfort of the fit and the quality/quantity of the bass.  Out of all CIEMs I have tested and reviewed so far, Ei.xx still holds the top spot in my book having one the most comfortable fit which Piotr got in one shot without any additional re-fits.  The powerful impact of the bass was also a strong attribute of the sound tuning, but it left me hungry for a better top end extension and a little better retrieval of details.  Though I wasn't familiar at all with the original Harmony 8/8Pro CIEMs, based on other impressions my imagination ran wild fantasizing about a crossover between Ei.xx and Harmony 8 (something I even mentioned to Piotr) without realizing that Piotr was already making plans to turn this fantasy into reality.  The result?  A 2nd generation Harmony 8, in a form of a new Harmony 8.2 (H8.2) model I would like to share with you about after spending the last 3 weeks enjoying these beauties.
     
    Unboxing and accessories.
     
    Similar to a number of my recent reviews of other IEMs/CIEMs, H8.2 unboxing experience follows a minimalistic route where the emphasis is more on a product itself rather than the packaging.  But it was still nice to see an actual cardboard box, though all black and plain without any labeling.  Obviously you can't put a specific picture since we are talking about CIEMs where you customize the shell to your liking, but perhaps printing a company name (in silver on black) with a spec list would be a nice touch to consider in order to personalize the packaging.
     
    Inside, you will find a traditional Pelican 1010 micro case which, as many familiar with, provides a bullet proof protection.  This case is bulky to carry in your pocket for everyday use, so Piotr also included a compact rectangular clam shell zippered case.  It works great with H8.2 and its slim stock cable, but if you are planning to upgrade the cable to an aftermarket bulkier one, you will have to switch to Pelican case for extra room.  My only comment here, Piotr really stepped it up in the design quality, and I would have loved to see a small foam insert with cutouts inside of the Pelican case to keep these CIEMs from banging against each other.
     
    Along with both of the cases, you also get a traditional cleaning tool, a small dehumidifier container, and a folded welcome manual.  I don't believe anything else is really necessary, and I can't think of any other must have accessory, maybe a piece of a branded soft cloth to wipe/clean the shells.
     
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    The Cable.
     
    Included is just a generic stock OFC cable with a slim 90deg rubbery connector housing, a nice strain relief, and a standard 3.5mm TRS gold plated plug.  A rubbery y-splitter mold is also surrounded by a nice strain relief and a chin slider is just a piece of a clear plastic tube with a decent sliding friction.  Going up to a standard 2pin connectors, marked accordingly with red/blue dots to ID corresponding Right/Left sides, you have a typical flexible memory wire with a clear flexible tube over it forming a hook you can shape to your liking.
     
    The wires have a nice tight rubbery coating, making cable very pliable, easy to manage when wrapped for storage, and free of microphonics.  Wires going up to earpieces were tightly twisted, while going down after y-splitter, the ground wires were combined and all 3 were twisted down to 3.5mm plug.  I know, this is just a basic generic cable, but it felt durable and reminded me of Westone Epic cable quality.  Even so ground wires were combined, I went back’n’forth with some of my other OFC cables with 4 separate conductors and haven’t noticed too much difference.
     
    ca_harmony82-12.jpg   ca_harmony82-13.jpg
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    Unlike Ei.xx where from day one I switched stock cable to BaX (a must have in that case) and never looked back, here with H8.2 I actually enjoyed the stock cable performance and found its pair up to be quite good.  Testing it with pure silver cable (TWag) didn't yield a huge improvement, but I did notice changes on a level where I hear bass being a little tighter and even a bit more articulate.  Upper mids got a bit brighter but the level of detail retrieval didn't change drastically.  Also, I didn't hear a significant change in treble.
     
    I wasn't too crazy about Pure Copper (TWcu) or Litz SPC (BaX and other SPC cables) either since they affected the quality and quantity of the bass, and made upper mids a bit grainy, not as smooth anymore.  Gold plated silver (TWau) was also surprisingly not the best match since the bass became more neutral and upper mids even gained a shade of a metallic sheen.  All this cable replacement testing was done using PAW Gold, making sure I was feeding H8.2 with the best source in my current possession.
     
    Though I like to bring up the cable replacement and document the sound changes I hear and to encourage to experiment with cable rolling you have access to, with H8.2 it’s not really necessary to spend extra money on replacement cable since I found a stock one to do the job.
     
    ca_harmony82-18.jpg
     
    Design.
     
    I typically limit the design section of my reviews to a description of the shell exterior and the partitioning of drivers inside, but here it's going to be a longer story.  Up until being introduced to Harmony series, I wasn't even aware that CIEMs could be made out of a material other than acrylic.  The only exception was ES60 with an acrylic shell and a silicone nozzle which is kind of stiff to begin with and then body-heat activated to soften and to form a better seal after I put them in my ears.  CustomArt offers an option to have the entire shell made out of silicone material.  It's definitely rare and probably requires more work to manufacture, but it also beneficial for those who find acrylic shell to be too hard and want to have a better comfort wearing customs.
     
    Piotr surprised me at first with a set of silicone H8.2, definitely one of a kind experience putting these semi-soft shell molds in my ears.  Unfortunately, my ears weren't exactly "jelling" with a silicone shell, even after an extended wear time while using proper ear lubricants.  After a week I noticed less friction, but still felt a bit uncomfortable, obviously a matter of personal preference.  I do realize, there are many happy Harmony 8/8Pro users who wouldn't trade their silicone shell for anything else, and it's nice that CustomArt offers both options, but I wish they would also offer a universal acrylic model.  Many people are still anxious to commit to Customs, and Universal version takes some of the commitment pressure off.
     
    The first pair of silicone H8.2 I received looked very exotic with a swirling color design.  CustomArt website offers a choice of 40 different shell colors under silicone finish, and I'm sure you can customize it further by contacting Piotr.  For example, the sample I received had a combination of two different swirling colors.  Since a silicone shell turned out to be not my cup of tea, Piotr kindly offered an acrylic shell replacement, but I didn’t realize how much surprise I was in for.  When I received and took out of the case the next review pair of H8.2, I was mesmerized by the black and gold swirls of the acrylic shell, a rich combination with deep colors and a beautiful Cocobolo real wood veneer faceplate.  When designing the acrylic shell, CustomArt website tool offers a choice of 10 predefined solid/transparent shell colors, with an option for a custom one, 10 different solid/transparent faceplate colors, and a choice of either body matching or transparent blue/red canal part (good idea for a quick id of L/R sides), and of course the option of transparent color is also available.  On top of that, you have a choice of 24 (!!!) real wood beautiful veneer faceplates.
     
    H8.2 shells I received were not selected by me personally, but I absolutely love the design and wish Piotr would setup a gallery page with pictures of his artwork to give people some ideas for inspiration.  At the same time, while picture is worth a thousand words, you have to actually feel the smooth finish of the shell to appreciate the new processing technique Piotr implemented which achieves near glass-like smooth finish of the acrylic shell.  The design was an absolute smooth perfection.  I went with my finger a dozen of times over the area where faceplate joins the shell and it feels like one solid piece.  Toward the inside on the surface of the shell, there is a model marking in red/blue which helps to id the sides, though obviously you can’t mistake right for left when putting these in your ears.  The shell finish continuous throughout a nozzle, matching the rest of the shell, even across the nozzle tip where you will find 4 bores, each connected to corresponding dual low, dual full range, dual mids, and dual tweeter drivers under partitioning of 4way cross-over in a single phase config.  The 2pin connector socket was non-recessed, and also across the faceplate my review pair had “The Custom Art” on one side and “Harmony 8.2” on the other side in gold letters, and I'm sure you can ask Piotr about the custom artwork.
     
    Another thing that stood out for me was an incredibly slim shell design.  We are talking about 8-BA drivers in a shell that was flush with my ear.  By nature of Custom design, it’s uncomfortable to lay down with your head on the pillow wearing CIEMs because of the nozzle being deep inside of your ear canal, but I honestly didn’t expect such a slim profile for a shell hosting 8 Balanced Armature drivers and cross-over.  Since the shell wasn’t transparent, it’s hard to tell how everything is arrangement inside, but one thing Piotr mentioned – there was a clear transparent silicone filling inside of the acrylic shell.  As I just learned, silicone acts as a suspension (damping) for drivers, reducing their ringing.  In order to match audio performance of silicone vs acrylic shells, acrylic body of the shell was filled with silicone to achieve the same working condition for drivers.
     
    The acrylic shell fit was perfect, and due to a very smooth finish and shorter nozzle (to match the “design” of my picky earcanal), it took me a minimum effort to insert H8.2 in my ears which felt almost like Universal fit.  I still needed a small "corkscrew" turn to insert them in, but was able to take them out without too much of a reverse turn.  Furthermore, the isolation was on a level of decent earplugs.  On a few occasions while using H8.2 at work I kept them in my ears even without playing music, just like a custom earplug.
     
    Silicone version
     
    ca_harmony82-01.jpg   ca_harmony82-02.jpg
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    Acrylic version
     
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    The fit (silicone and acrylic)
     
    ca_harmony82-31.jpg   ca_harmony82-32.jpg
     
    Sound analysis.
     
    Even though H8.2 has 8 BA drivers, I still put them through 100hrs of burn in to condition and to bake all the solder joints, crossover components, and the cable.  I have shared my earlier impressions about H8.2, but as it turned out due to a shorter nozzle and a slim CIEM shell (which I’m grateful for due to an anatomy of my ears/earcanal), I quickly realized that I didn’t have H8.2 shell pushed all the way into my ears thus some of my early impressions could have been a little off, especially when I originally assumed that silicone shell sound had a better bass and overall isolation.  Once I realized what was going on, I confirmed that both silicone and acrylic versions of H8.2 had an identical sound performance.
     
    I found H8.2 to have a nicely balanced signature with an excellent retrieval of details and a smooth natural tonality.  I usually associate natural tonality with an organic non-fatigue quality which sometime lacks details in favor of a full bodied sound.  Here Piotr managed to tune all 8 drivers of his flagship to sound in a coherent unison with a very natural smooth timbre and plenty of details.  The details are not on micro-detail level and you shouldn't expect an analytical level of clarity or a bright treble sparkle, but surprisingly you still get plenty of details.  Another thing I found, H8.2 is quite forgiving even with low quality sources and doesn't sacrifice the level of details, regardless if I'm playing from PAW Gold or my smartphone.
     
    Starting with a low end, you get a decent sub-bass extension with a nice textured rumble, it doesn't go very deep but has just enough oomph to add a nice weight under the mid-bass punch.  Mid-bass punch is moderately elevated (but not too much), and has average speed and average decay.  Overall, bass is well controlled, and doesn't spill into the mids, but it's not super tight or very articulate - I hear a natural bass performance typical of a dynamic driver, rather than a fast and snappy BA driver performance.
     
    Lower mids are not too thick, but still have a nice body which adds to a natural tonality of the sound.  Upper mids are smooth and detailed, not a single hint of harshness or graininess.  Though overall sound is balanced, I think the smooth and slightly warm nature of the sound plays a bit of a role in pushing vocals slightly back.  This doesn't change sound signature and in no way I would call sound v-shaped, but upper mids are not exactly upfront in presentation.  The organic nature of the sound makes both female and male vocals sound very realistic.
     
    Treble is where things do start to roll off and it's not as extended, but still has an excellent definition and clarity.  There is not as much airiness and I wouldn't call the treble being very crisp, but again - it's extended just enough to paint the complete picture of the sound, and doesn't accentuate the upper frequencies, making the sound more forgiving.
     
    H8.2 soundstage is definitely above the average in width/depth/height, though I did find soundstage width to vary between the sources in a quite surprising revelation where my Note 4 smartphone actually outperformed LPG.  I wouldn't call it super expanded or reaching holographic level of expansion, but I think it goes along with a natural tonality and expectation of natural realistic soundstage expansion.  Another thing I never took into consideration was the length of the nozzle relative to my earcanal resulting in a difference of the distance from drivers to my eardrums.  Majority of my earphones are universal IEMs where I use long stem eartips.  That creates a longer distance between the driver and my eardrum, while H8.2 is nearly flush with my ear and has a short nozzle which narrows that distance.  Thus, under these circumstances my perception of soundstage will slightly vary in comparison to other H8.2 users.
     
    I found the layering and separation of vocals and instruments to be average, since there is not as much airiness separating the sound layers, but the sound never gets congested or veiled, and that's exactly what impressed me about H8.2 the most - being able to have a smooth natural tonality without sacrificing details or making sound too lush and congested.  Imaging of H8.2 has a good placement of instruments and vocals, and in general it has a pretty convincing positioning of all sound elements, limited only by its soundstage expansion.
     
    ca_harmony82-11.jpg
     
    Comparison.
     
    Before I started the comparison of H8.2 to other IEMs/CIEMs in my review collection, the first thing I was really curious about is how 6-BA design of Ei.xx stacks up against its big brother H8.2 with 8-BA drivers.
     
    H8.2 vs Ei.xx – I found Ei.xx to have a slightly wider soundstage (coincidentally, Ei nozzle is slightly longer); Ei.xx bass is a little tighter and faster and has a noticeably bigger impact; lower mids are similar, while upper mids in H8.2 are pushed a little bit back in comparison to Ei and also have better retrieval of details, more transparency, and sounds more natural in comparison to Ei where upper mids are a bit thinner and less resolving; treble in both sounds very similar.  H8.2 strikes you with a superior natural tonality and a smoother and more resolving sound.
     
    H8.2 next to Ei.xx
    ca_harmony82-29.jpg
     
    H8.2 vs K10UA - K10UA soundstage has a bit more width/height; sub-bass extension and quality is very similar while K10UA has a little stronger punch with a faster attack; lower mids are similar, while K10UA upper mids are more forward, brighter, and grainier in comparison; K10UA also has a brighter, crispier treble with more airiness.  I definitely hear a contrast of brighter crispier K10UA sound versus smoother and more organic H8.2.
     
    H8.2 vs Andromeda - right away you notice Andromeda having a little more hissing in comparison, also Andro soundstage is more expanded in all three directions; Andro bass is tighter and more aggressive with stronger impact, not by a lot but definitely noticeable; lower mids are similar, but Andro upper mids are brighter, more revealing, more detailed; Andro treble is brighter, more crisp, and with a little more airiness.  This is another example of a contrast with a smooth organic sound of H8.2 versus more colored and more revealing fun sound of Andromeda.
     
    H8.2 vs U12 w/B1 - U12 soundstage is more expanded in all three directions; U12 sub-bass goes a little deeper and mid-bass has more impact and faster punch; lower mids are very similar and upper mids also have the same positioning and similar organic tonality, but to my surprise H8.2 with a stock OFC cable has slightly more natural and detailed upper mids (especially in vocals) in comparison to U12 w/TWau cable.  This is actually a very interesting comparison because both of these have a natural smooth tonality, but with an exception of soundstage expansion, I found H8.2 to have a slight edge over U12, without even using aftermarket cables.
     
    H8.2 vs ES60 - ES60 has more hissing in comparison, ES60 has a little wider soundstage; bass is very similar though ES60 is a bit faster and tighter and with a slightly stronger mid-bass punch; lower mids are very similar and the same goes for upper mids, very similar smooth natural tonality, but ES60 upper mids presentation is a little more forward; also ES60 treble has a better extension, a little brighter, and with more airiness. A lot of similarities in this comparison, but I still felt like H8.2 tonality was a bit smoother and more natural while ES60 wins in higher resolution and retrieval of details.
     
    H8.2 vs Sirius - Sirius soundstage is more expanded in all 3 directions; also in this comparison bass is similar as well, but Sirius has a little stronger mid-bass impact; lower mids are similar while upper mids in Sirius are a bit brighter and a little more revealing; treble in Sirius is a bit brighter and with a little more airiness.  If you want a little more excitement in your sound – Sirius has an edge, while if you want a more natural smooth and still detailed sound - H8.2 hits the right spot.
     
    Overall, with all earphones used in this comparison nothing was really night'n'day when it comes down to the differences, but it really does stand out in upper mids where H8.2 has a very impressive natural tonality.  Those who want more excitement in their sound might not appreciate it as much as I did, but I was drawn into the rich detailed smoothness of H8.2 tuning and fantastic pair up even with lower res sources.
     
    H8.2 next to Ei.xx, Andromeda, Sirius, U12, K10UA, ES60
    ca_harmony82-30.jpg
     
    Pair up.
     
    I wasn’t sure what to expect from H8.2 since I read about original H8 being picky when it comes to source pair up.  Without a doubt, you can’t expect the same level of resolution from a smartphone as you would from a top tier DAP or a quality usb DAC, but I found H8.2 to be one of the few TOTL CIEMs that sounds excellent with a stock ofc cable even straight out of my smartphone.
     
    Note 4 - no hissing, nice wide soundstage, smooth detailed balanced natural sound, punchy bass, clear detailed mids, well defined treble.
     
    LPG - no hissing, nice soundstage expansion, smooth detailed balanced natural resolving sound, lots of clarity, punchy bass, clear detailed mids, well defined treble.
     
    Opus#1 - no hissing, a bit wider soundstage, smooth detailed balanced natural sound, punchy bass with a nice sub-bass extension, clear detailed mids, well defined treble.
     
    DX80 - very faint hissing, a little wider soundstage, smooth detailed balanced natural sound, punchy bass with a nice sub-bass extension, clear mids but some details are lost, well defined treble.
     
    N5 - very faint hissing, a little wider soundstage, smooth detailed balanced natural sound, punchy bass with excellent sub-bass extension, clear and very detailed mids, well defined treble which became crisper.
     
    X7 w/AM2 - no hissing, nice soundstage expansion, smooth detailed balanced natural sound, punchy bass good sub-bass though a little less rumble, clear and detailed mids, well defined treble with a little bit of additional airiness.
     
    L5Pro - no hissing, nice soundstage expansion, smooth detailed balanced natural sound, punchy bass with a nice sub-bass extension, clear and detailed mids, well defined treble.
     
    Micro iDSD - no hissing, a little wider soundstage, smooth detailed balanced natural very resolving sound, punchy bass with excellent sub-bass extension, clear detailed very smooth mids, well defined treble.
     
    Conclusion.
     
    Unlike so many of my other write-ups where the main focus is usually on a sound quality and a comparison to other earphones, this one end up with me gushing over how much I like the design and how much I learned about the design while talking to the man behind it.  Don’t get me wrong, we are still dealing with quite an impressive natural smooth detailed sound and impressive bass performance, as well as a great pair up with most of the sources I threw H8.2 at.  As a matter of fact, I was quite happy using H8.2 with a stock ofc cable and driving it straight from my aging Galaxy Note 4.  The design, the finish, the material, all together really elevated the value of H8.2.  Perhaps it’s not about super high resolution or sparkling highs, but the signature of this CIEM is more musical, natural, organic, without compromising the retrieval of details and the clarity of the sound.  And along with an impressive sound tuning, you also get an equally impressive design with a choice of a rare silicone shell or a slim and super smooth acrylic shell that looks like a piece of art.
     
    I'm sure many of you are probably familiar with exotic designs of Noble CIEMs and the handy work of the Wizard himself.  Based on the review pair of H8.2 I received from Piotr, it will be hard to ignore the fact that he is not wasting his time and heading fast in the same direction.  Just a few years ago Piotr was a regular head-fi visitor and reviewer with a passion for DIY CIEMs.  Today, he is running his own well known CustomArt company and continuous to raise the bar not only in sound quality but also in the design.
    davidcotton, knopi, proedros and 11 others like this.
  8. MrButchi
    5.0/5,
    "The love child of Harmony 8 and Harmony 8 Pro - only better"
    Pros - TOTL performance ; superb mids and bass ; great soundstage ; full bodied sound ; balanced sound ; easy to drive
    Cons - Harmony 8 Pro lovers may miss some highs and some air
    July 2014 saw the advent of an oddity in the ciem world: the first ever 8-drivers silicone iem. Not only was it a technical feat (stacking drivers in silicone is more complicated than in acrylic), but it was a two-headed monster (Harmony 8 was soon joined by Harmony 8 Pro) which quickly put Custom Art on the map.
     
    After two years, including a venture into acrylic iems (Ei.3) followed by an ongoing collaboration with Massdrop (Ei.XX), Piotr has decided that now is a good time to re-up Harmony… with an incredible marketing name : Harmony 8.2. [​IMG]
     
    The goal is clear: get more punch in the subs, and a little less stinginess in the highs (the two main buffs people had against Harmony 8 Pro). I was part of the lucky team that worked on previewing Ei.XX, and we’re back.
     
     
    IMG_6155.jpg
     

    Upgrades

     
     
    Piotr is now well known for his 46.8 seconds email response time, whatever time zone you’re in, for reasonable prices (in view of the industry practices), as well as for being one of the few companies to offer ciems a second life market (reshells never performed before by Custom Art are charged €175, and €75 when they are on a product shelled or previously reshelled by Custom Art).
     
    Harmony 8.2 is taking it to a new level, by offering the option of upgrading from Harmony 8 or Harmony 8.2, for a fraction of the price (€260 for the upgrade, €1000 for the full price). The only company I know of which has such a policy is France-based Earsonics, with the advantage that the upgrade is available throughout the whole catalog, but with the disadvantage that they don’t provide any kind of reshell service.
     ​
     ​
    LeftHDR.jpg
                                            ​
    This picture is HDR to show how the silicone filling interacts with the acrylic shell​
     ​
     
    Technically speaking, there is another major upgrade brought up with Harmony 8.2 – the option to choose between full silicone, or acrylic shells with silicone. And that’s just awesome.
     
    Harmony 8 Pro was my first ciem, and I loved silicone and the way it’s a tight yet smooth fit. I felt at home in the same way with SE5. Yet, when I encountered Ei.3, then Ei.XX and finally Aether, I can’t deny that my (and I stress the “my”, as I believe this is totally personal) best comfort comes with acrylic.
     
    Basically, with this option, Custom Art offers the best of both worlds to all users. And to make the choice between the two even harder, just know that each offers specific personalization possibilities which are unique.
     
    RightHDR.jpg
     
    This picture is HDR to show how the silicone filling interacts with the acrylic shell
     ​
     
    While Custom Art has now a respected craft in acrylic shells, and while amazing effects can be achieved by mixing a transparent acrylic shell with the silicone filling, they are largely rivaled by the swirls, and various other finishes which can be achieved with full silicone. Don’t ask me – I suck at choosing designs, and I’m always at a loss, but Custom Art’s gallery and their new Instagram account will help you I’m sure.
     
     
    The sound
     
     
    Yes no packaging paragraph – it’s an industry standard now and it’s superfluous. What I will say though, is that the following is based on 150+ hours of listening, with a 60-30-10 repartition between QP1R, Gungnir MB and Lyr2, and iPhone 6S. Genres are mainly rockfish, with a lot more classical lately (Shostakovitch and Bach’s Suites for cello being my darlings), and a little electronic music here and there (a lot of Keeno, Etherwood and Daft Punk for the most part). I tested stock, Linum BaX and Music, but did not perceive significant signature changes, so I stuck to my Linum Music.
     
    So I guess the question that everyone is asking now is “what’s the deal”? Is it really better? Is it more Harmony 8 or more Harmony 8 Pro?
     
    As you may know, I was wowed (and it’s no small word I was really flabbergasted) by Lime Ear’s Aether. I mean, to me, Aether was really a prowess in terms of technicality and musicality. I have since then heard Unique Melody’s Mavericks which have also impressed me a great deal. I haven’t had the chance to lay my ears on Campfire Audio’s Andromeda, AAW W500H or Empire Ears’ Zeus (though Penta did impress me).
     
     
    IMG_5663.jpg
     
     
    My point here is that iems seem to have really crossed a quality threshold, and are really amazing now. How can you top that? Does the notion of “toping that” even make sense? I had such a hard time separating Aether and Harmony 8 Pro, especially with the latter being my first love. It was also hard because Aether has this amazing air to its signature, which really makes its technical qualities shine.
     
    When I first put Harmony 8.2 on, I wasn’t overly wowed. I was very positively surprised because the bass quality immediately jumped to my ears – think of the perfect child of Harmony 8 Pro (for the resolution) and Ei.XX (for the extension and impact). The mids also sounded quite silky and dense. But apart from that, it made me think more of Harmony 8 than anything. Hardly the eye popper that Aether was.
     
    But the devil lies in the details (as a patent lawyer I should know :p). And he really does. I went back to my routine, and decided to be rigorous about it. Meaning the disgusting three weeks with my review playlist. I must confess that I did mix in a little bit more normal music than I usually do (my job has been too hard this year to be all work and no play). And it paid off.
     
     

    Bass

     
     
    Man, am I happy. This feels like the love child of Ei.XX and Harmony 8 Pro. Think resolution, lovely ADSR, but with impact. I think the comparison with Ei.XX should not be pushed too far – Harmony 8.2 remains a lot more balanced in its signature than Ei.XX is, and this is not a basshead ciem. But you’re going to love focusing on the bass lines of your favorite rock albums, bobble at the rhythm of the drum kick, and dig the texture of the electronics bass waves.
     
    In this compartment, Harmony 8.2 simply blows out any other ciem I’ve ever listened to before. Keeping in mind that I am not a basshead, but that Ei.XX really made me realize what I was missing, I feel that the balance achieved by Harmony 8.2 is nearly perfect – I get both the impact I craved for and the resolution that I got so endeared with from Harmony 8 Pro. Some of my EM32 and Penta loving buddies find that there could be more. But to me, that would really take the Harmony 8.2 south of neutrality.
     
     
    IMG_5653.jpg
     

    Mids

     
     
    Mids are by far my biggest and most appreciated surprise with Harmony 8.2. I suck at describing or judging mids. And when I read my Aether review again in view of Harmony 8.2 it shows. What I wrote was basically “I dunno how to judge mids, but Aether’s are good”. And it’s true.
     
    But when I hear Harmony 8.2, I think I should have been a little harder on Aether, because the former really bring density and thickness, something that I realize now was a little lacking with Aether (a little more so maybe than with Harmony 8 Pro).
     
    I mean… violins, cellos. They sound so ******* good. May it be on Adam Cohen’s “Put your bags down” (a little after 3’00), or just simply listening at Bach’s Suites for cello (told ya they were my darlings), mids really shine. Voices start to take back some prominence, and this serves the music well.
     
     
    CloseupHDR.jpg
     

    Highs

     
     
    Well it is hard to have it all. Or is it? Well, yeah it is I guess. The enhanced bass and mids have taken some of the Harmony 8 Pro air out.
     
    This is really the first thing that screamed to my ears at first – “Wow, there is significantly less air”… but in the end it’s good (to me), because that’s the result of more continuity in the musical spectrum. I don’t know how to say it properly, it’s just that the whole is denser, there is more beef to it, and in the end it seems logical that there is less air.
     
    Does it mean that the highs are less stingy than Harmony 8 Pro? I have a hard time saying so because they never stung me to begin with (yeah, lucky man I am, I know). I can however say that, at first sight, Harmony 8.2 appears less technical than say Aether or Harmony 8 Pro.
     
    Except that “at first sight” is paramount. Because in the end, I have the impression that it is really a question of focus. Because the bass and mids strike you a lot more with Harmony 8.2, and because you feel less air, I think that my brain sort of was distracted a little more from the highs, and didn’t pay as much attention at first.
     
    Now for sure, due to the presentation, there is clearly less focus on the highs than there might have been, or than there is with Harmony 8 Pro. Is it for better or for worse? That is up to your tastes gentlemen. But to my greatest surprise, it is for better in my case.
     
    In order to say it in another manner, when I reviewed Aether, I wrote how surprised I was that the highs were at the same time so round and soft and yet so precise. After a few months, there are a few occasions where that’s actually not good – call me crazy but I sort of like some highs to be a little piercing, because well, that’s what highs are, piercing. So I found myself regretting a little of the roundish nature of Aether’s highs. With Harmony 8.2, I don’t feel that roundish nature, and I get less stinginess than with Harmony 8 Pro, but not to the point that I regret it. Take that with a grain of salt though, as I’ve been with Harmony 8.2 for only 2 months and a half, and what I mentioned only appeared with Aether after close to 4 months.
     
     
    UpHDR.jpg
     
     

    Soundstage and signature

     
     
    The great mystery at first. Well not so much but still. I’m a soundstage whore, and I’ve always confessed it. And as far as scene goes, Aether is really amazing to me. So big and deep, yet so coherent. The air is not a stranger to it by the way.
     
    When I first started listening to Harmony 8.2, I immediately found the width I was used to from Harmony 8 Pro.
     
    I mean it really sounded good, passed with flying colors all of my soundstage tests (think details in Dire Straits’ “Telegraph Road” or “On Every Street” after 3’00,  the choirs in Brahms “Ein Deutsches Requiem”, or the separation on Daft Punk’s “Contact”). But I wanted more. I wanted that depth that Piotr had promised me he’d deliver.
     
    And it’s there. It’s not as obvious as Aether, because of the lesser air, but it jumps at you on anything that involves an echo or a background. The precision of the scene is amazing, although it did take me some time to get used to it, whereas Aether wowed me with it. To me, Harmony 8.2’s scene is clearly the equivalent of Aether’s. The separation is just as good, except that it sounds a little more “together”, and that’s actually a good thing.
     
     
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    Conclusion
     
    If I’ve made any sense in the above, you’ll understand that I find Harmony 8 Pro’s signature north of neutral, Aether’s overall signature neutral to slightly north of neutral, whereas Harmony 8.2’s signature will be a little south of neutral.
     
    And to my greatest surprise, I love it. I always thought of myself of an analytic guy craving for that precision that only bright signatures provide. Turns out I’m a man of compromises.
     
    Anyway, congrats to Piotr, because he keeps delivering and amazing me when I thought there was little possibility of doing so. And to tell you how humble a man he is, when I told him that my first assessment was that Harmony 8.2 and Aether boxed in the same category quality wise, he was thrilled. Like honestly happy of his achievement. In a world so full of egos, you won’t meet that many guys like that.
     
    As a last word, I would like to full circle on something that I said a little earlier: it appears that we have crossed a quality threshold with iems. We have reached a quality level that makes me think that we’re entering a world in which it’s becoming a lot less about compromise and a lot more about tastes. And that’s a great thing for us audiophiles.
     
     
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    Ps : Thanks to Piotr again for the trust. I apologize for the not-so-good pictures, but this is all I could mutter with the time I currently have. Also, I have decided to drop the tunes-based face to face comparison because I was unable to properly volume match between Harmony 8 Pro, Aether and Harmony 8.2, and I don't want to be misleading.
    knopi, piotrus-g, proedros and 12 others like this.