The Fearless Audio S8Z features a coherent and a warm, yet balanced, tuning that is full and engaging to the listener. Its technical abilities also exceed that of its peers with excellent detail retrieval, resolution, and imaging. The S8Z is one of the best offerings that Fearless Audio has come up with, and perhaps the best monitor available in its relative class.
I will say this right off the bat. The new S8Z Fearless Audio cable (grey 8-core with metal connectors) is the worst cable I have ever experienced. The quality of the cable is amazing. The sound is also great. But they chose to use some kind of solid iron for the Y-splitter and the chin slider, and the cable is HEAVY. It just drags down and tugs on your ears like nothing before. It looks nice and feels nice in the hands, but in terms of actual practicality, it is the worst decision they could have chosen.
Now, to the important part. Sound.
The S8Z is a mild-V shaped tuning (elevated bass and trebles), that builds from the skeleton of its predecessor, the S8F. However, the low and low-mids are slightly cut back, making the entire sound a little more balanced and lean, which is a good thing considering the S8F was a solid V-shaped tuning. The bass consequently does not have the level of impact as the S8F, but it is still relatively abundant, and is a punchy and fast type of hit. It feels tighter and cleaner, and helps to make the S8Z a bit more technically adept than its predecessor.
With its mild V-tuning, the mids are on the warmer side. It’s not as quite articulate as I would want, but vocals still have a nice body and texture to them. The S8Z really is great for both male and female vocals as they sound full, warm, and clear. Despite leaning V, I have not had any instances where the vocals felt lacking, behind, or overlapping with other instruments. The warmer mids give the S8Z a fuller sound and some girth to instruments and vocals, making it a great choice for musicians for stage monitoring. However, as with all V-shaped monitors, the warmth also means cutting against overall tightness, and while the S8Z can’t be described as sloppy or mushy, it is not as neutral as something like the S6Pro.
The treble on the S8Z is also an evolution from the S8F. Fearless has cut back slightly on the 3-4k area that made the S8F sometimes a bit too hot. The S8Z has a more comfortable treble than its predecessor, but is still incredibly technical. There does not seem to be any apparent odd peaks or dips, making the treble quite coherent all throughout. And although the treble extends nicely, this coherency keeps the S8Z from sounding harsh or too bright. I believe it’s at the perfect balance between technicality and listening comfort. The S8Z has a sharper 1-2k rise that makes vocals and snares tight and a clean transition from lower trebles to mid trebles, giving vocals a nice and crispy bite. Vocal presence is also nice, indicating the mid treble range is also quite smooth. Cymbals have quite a nice timbre to them and don’t have any weird shrills or brilliance. Overall, the treble was tuned with just enough balance to sustain the warmer low and low-mids and all the while keep the sound articulate and technical.
In technicalities, Fearless has opted to go with a more intimate soundstage, however, there is still enough air to keep it from sounding damp or cluttered. Instrument separation and layering is also not bad, with nothing seemingly overlapping or getting covered up. But a little more leeway may have helped to clean up the low-mids. Although not the widest, imaging is still really nice and accurate. Resolution is pretty great. It's at, if not better, than peers such as the Moondrop S8, but it's not quite at the level of legendary IEM's such as the Sony Z1R or Vision Ears VE8, or even the Hidition Viento.
Overall, the S8Z pumps out a fun, full, and engaging sound that is quite technically adept. It’s a signature that is easy for anyone to enjoy, and sits at the top of the competition among its relative peers.