2BA+Dyanmic Driver Hybrid Audiophile MMCX In-ear Monitor

FIDUE VIRGO A85

Rating:
3.75/5,
  • Specification

    • Model: FIDUE A85
    • Color: Silver
    • Drivers: Armature × 2 & Dynamic × 1
    • Frequency Range: 7-41000Hz
    • Impedance: 20Ω
    • Sensitivity: 107dB
    • Max Input Power: 50mW
    • Distortion: <1%
    • Plug: 3.5mm stereo gold-plated
    • Cable: 1.3m Silver-plated OFC Cable

Recent Reviews

  1. B9Scrambler
    Fidue A85 Virgo: Unique
    Written by B9Scrambler
    Published Dec 27, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Great Build - Organic Design is Very Ergonomic - Unique Signature
    Cons - Contrasting DD / BA Driver Tonality
    Greetings!

    Today we’re checking out Benny Tan’s newest creation, the Fidue A85 Virgo.

    My introduction to the brand was through the baby of the lineup, the sport-focused a31s. While not the best sounding product I’ve heard, the a31s’ warm and bassy signature was suited to the intended purpose of the earphone. It was also unique in that it’s housing wasn’t much larger than the 8mm driver inside, making it one of the most compact and durable products I’ve seen to date.

    The Virgo is a completely different animal entirely, featuring a triple hybrid setup with two custom-made balanced armatures and one Fidue-exclusive dynamic driver, per side. The crossover network within this earphone ensures the frequency division is clean and accurate, leading to a cohesive end product.

    Fidue’s primary goal “is reproducing original sound accurately, and maintaining clarity, dynamics and natural expression”. How well does the A85 do this? Come with me on a journey of discovery and wonder to find out.

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    Disclaimer:

    The A85 was provided free of charge for the purposes of review. I would like to thank Penon Audio for contacting Fidue on my behalf, and for arranging the shipping of the sample. The thoughts within are my own and do not represent Fidue or Penon. There was no financial incentive provided to write this review, nor was there any expectation set for positive coverage. At the time of this review the A85 retailed for 399.00 USD.

    Fidue: http://fidue.com/content/view?brand=fidue_en&item=111&core=product

    Penon Audio: https://penonaudio.com/fidue-virgo-a85.html

    Personal Preferences:

    I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, Brainwavz B400, and thinksound On2 offer unique examples of signatures I enjoy.

    Source:

    For at home use the A85 was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp, iFi Pro iCan, or straight out of my Asus FX53V laptop. For portable use it was paired with an LG G5, F-Audio S1, or Shanling M1. The Walnut F1 also made it’s way into the rotation at times, even though the A85 in no way needs to be amped.

    Specifications:
    • Impedance:23Ω
    • Headphone sensitivity: 107db
    • Frequency range: 7-41000Hz
    • Max Power Input: 50mW
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    Packaging and Accessories:

    Unlike many other reviewers, I place a fair bit of emphasis on the unboxing experience. This is especially true when it comes to premium products. To me a quality unboxing experience shows a manufacturer takes pride in their product, and it displays a certain level of respect for their customers. You’re putting down your hard earned money to get something special, so it should feel like it. This doesn’t necessarily mean the packaging should be flamboyant and over the top and the accessory kit packed to the brim with tips, cases, and other stuff, though those things won’t hurt if done well. Fidue’s unboxing experience with the A85 is quite good, giving you an involving and multi-layered experience with a generous helping of items.

    The black/green color scheme is a Fidue staple and is handled very tastefully. It’s easily something that could end up looking quite garish, but that’s not the case here. On the front you have a small viewing window showing off the A85’s organically designed earpieces and a list of features. The rear contains a list of specifications in English, Chinese (Mandarin?), and German along with Fidue’s phone number, website, and physical address. There is also a scannable QR code.

    Cutting the security seal reveals a twin flap system which hugs the package. Opening the first flap, on the left you find information on tip usage. The centre flap contains a Benny Tan quote, “Original Sound, Beautifully Voiced” and a brief statement telling you about the Virgo. To sum it up, this triple-driver hybrid is intended to deliver “the realism of vocals and the spectacular clarity of instruments.”

    Flipping back the final flap uncovers the A85’s earpieces nestled in a foam cutout along with the carrying case containing the cable below. On the right is a slew of informative statements telling you how to care for the Virgo, how to wear it, and how to remove the cable using the included shim (guitar pick looking thing). While mostly plastic and not particularly premium feeling, I quite like the case. The lid is covered in a thin metal plate which is engraved with the Fidue name. The inside is lined with foam to ensure the A85 isn’t scratched during transport. The case is a little bulky, but not so thick you can’t pocket it. While I think Dunu does this style of case a little better, I’m perfectly content with what Fidue has included.

    The rest of the accessories are contained in a small black cardboard box tucked under a couple layers of foam. In all you get a very extensive list of items;
    • A85 Virgo earphone
    • Silver-plated OFC audiophile cable for full-ranged balanced use
    • Plastic carrying case
    • Four pairs of single-flange silicone tips (xs/s/m/l)
    • Two pairs of bi-flange silicone tips (m/l)
    • Two pairs of foam tips (T500 Comply and one generic set)
    • Shim for cable removal
    • Cleaning tool (looks like a SIM card remover)
    • Airplane adaptor
    • 3.5mm to 1/4” adapter
    • Warranty card
    All-in-all you’re getting quite a lot with the A85, and the quality is there too. The silicone tips are comfortable and feel dense and durable. Both sets of foam tips are comfortable and seal well. The case is perfectly functional, and the rest of the add-ins are welcome, even if they might not be used all to often (airplane adapter and shim come to mind).

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    Build, Comfort, and Isolation:

    Out of everything I’ve reviewed, the A85 is one of those that feels most deserving of it’s premium price tag. The CNC machined aluminum housings are met with flawless fit and finish, free of sharp edges, gaps, discoloring, or anything else that would take away from their impressive design. L and R indicators look to have been laser etched on the ear-facing side of each housing so they won’t wear away in time. You don’t really need them though, as the A85 is designed to be worn one way only. The cables are also imbued with blue and red colored rings at the plugs denoting left and right channels respectively. The overall design and build is so clean and organic, it’s easy to get lost in the finer details and find yourself sitting and staring. My only concern surrounds the lip less nozzles which makes tip-rolling less universal.

    The A85’s cable has a lot of positive qualities. The straight jack and y-split share the same beautiful machining of the housings and as a result feel durable and expensive. They’re also effectively relieved which I always appreciate since it serves only to increase cable longevity. The application of well implimented MMCX connectors also serves to increase longevity, but of the base product itself. If and when the cable dies, just replace it instead of buying a whole new earphone. When you’re spending upwards of 500 USD for a product, omitting a feature like this would be a critical failure which is why I’m glad it’s there. The built in ear guides are some of the best in the business with an aggressive arc that wraps around the entirety of your ear making the A85 one of the most stable earphones I’ve tried. You won’t find any finnicky memory wire here. This cable is also quite resistant to holding memory, it doesn’t tangle despite being slightly on the sticky side, and it’s fairly thick. The only real downside to it is microphonics which are quite prominent. Not as invasive as the cable on the Meze 11 Neo and 12 Classics, but not too far off. I’m glad Fidue thought to include a chin cinch because in my opinion it is absolutely necessary to effectively combat that cable noise.

    The combination of well-machined, lightweight aluminum housings with a low profile, ergonomic design means the A85 fits naturally in the ear without any qualities that hinder comfort. The shallow fit design and fairly relaxed angle at which the nozzle protrudes may cause some issues with getting a good seal, as I experienced, but you’ve been given a hefty selection of tips. There is enough variety there to ensure you’ll find something that works for your ear.

    In terms of noise suppression I found the A85 well-below average; not entirely surprising. The inner half of the housing is very well-ventilated with a pinhole vent near the base of the nozzle and two larger vents a little further back. This semi-open nature combined with a shallow fit means the A85 lets in a fair bit of outside noise. As is usually the case, throwing on the foam tips certainly helps negate this, but not enough to make this an ideal product for use in extremely noisy areas.

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    Sound:

    The A85’s mid-range is quite natural, prominent, and has a very commanding presence through it’s very articulate vocals. On Aesop Rock’s “Citronella” every layer and dynamic filter applied to his vocals sticks out. The same can be said for Benjie Webbe of Skindred whose vocal prowess, be he screaming or crooning, is on full display through the A85, I also found this presentation particularly suited to textured guitar work which has a hefty weight, definition, and depth to it.

    The A85’s treble doesn’t fare so well to my ears, suffering from a cold, dry crispness that takes away from cymbals and effects, rending it all very artificial. This is quite apparent in the opening moments of Michael Jackson’s “(P.Y.T.) Pretty Young Thing”. On the plus side, extension is excellent and you’re provided lots of information and detail. Separation is also quite impressive which combined with an airy presentation makes the A85 sound quite spacious when compared to most earphones.

    Throwing on a bassy track like Massive Attack’s “Angel” or Ephixa’s “Dubstep Killed Rock ‘n’ Roll” you might notice the A85’s mid-bass bias with some roll off in the sub-bass regions. It can rumble, but not with the level of aggression I personally prefer. This gives the A85 a very methodical bassline. You’d think this also means it’s quite slow and it certainly seems that way, but it never tripped up on particularly quick basslines, such as the crazy double bass kicks you hear in a lot of metal tracks. It meanders, yet it’s still quite nimble.

    When it comes to sound stage, the A85 has a reasonably vast and open presentation to it, as if you’re sitting a reasonable distance from the source. While I find this hurts the overall accuracy of the imaging, it does give a more satisfying headphone-like feel, especially when backed by the competent layering and separation qualities that are present. Overal detail and clarity is quite good too, particularly in the treble and mid-range, it’s just not apparent due to the lack of aggression that seems to be more commonly tuned into those frequencies.

    Overall I find the A85 an oddly satisfying listen. I don’t think the tonality of the dynamic driver and the balanced armatures is traditionally well matched which gives the A85 an incoherent sound, but it doesn’t hinder the final signature like you would expect. The balanced armatures are somewhat cold, quick, and dry, while the dynamic is plodding, warm, and smooth. Somehow it all pulls together into something that works and meshes successfully. The lack of any uncomfortable treble peaks serve to make this a good listen over long periods. The large mid-bass emphasis, while not my cup of tea for personal listening in the comfort of my home, works exceptionally well out in the real world where the ample ventilation lets in enough noise to balance out the presentation.

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    Select Comparisons:

    Brainwavz B400 (189.50 USD): The B400 and A85 are very, very different products. The A85 looks and feels like the most costly product it is with it’s all-metal build and organic design. The B400’s 3D printed housings are very rough around the edges. However, both are very comfortable and ergonomically sound with the A85’s smaller housings taking the edge. In terms of sound I find the B400 more relaxed yet they are about equal on detail. The A85 is one of the few products I’ve heard that can almost keep up with the B400 in terms of layering and separation, almost making up the difference with a larger sound stage. Neither product is particularly aggressive or energetic, though the A85’s extra upper range emphasis makes it the more vibrant of the two. In terms of mid-range the A85 is more forward, but the B400’s silky smoothness and similar levels of detail makes it the more accomplished of the two. Despite the A85’s use of a dynamic driver for the low end, the B400 displayed better depth and impact on bassy tracks, and with more texture to boot.

    Optoma Nuforce HEM6 (399.00 USD): The HEM6 is a triple balanced armature unit with a very mellow sound. Compared to the A85 it’s treble sounds very rolled off and could use a notable boost to liven things up. The A85’s mid-range is more crisp and clear, leaving the HEM6 slightly veiled. The low end of the HEM6 is better textured and punchier with similar extension. While the A85 comes across much more detailed and nuanced, the HEM6 sounds a lot more natural and realistic. In terms of build the A85 is again the more premium of the two, but the HEM6 impresses with it’s lightweight, ergonomically sound design that makes it less intrusive than the A85. As nice as the Fidue’s accessory kit is, Nuforce did HEM6 customers right by giving them two excellent cases, two decent cables, and a slew of tips to ensure you can get a great fit.

    Campfire Audio Polaris (599.00 USD): The Polaris is the only one of the bunch that rivals the A85 for that premium feel. Despite the angular design and extra weight, I didn’t find it lagging behind on comfort either, unless you throw the stock cable back on. That memory wire on the Polaris is terrible, showing further just how great the A85’s preformed guides are. In terms of accessories and packaging the A85 and Polaris take very different approaches. Campfire kept things simple with the Polaris, including only a few accessories, but extremely high quality ones. In terms of sound the A85 and Polaris are quite different. The Polaris is v-shaped with big bass and bright treble. It’s dialed back mid-range is quite noticeable when a/bing the two with it’s lower mid-range sounding more artificial. The Polaris does a better job of pulling micro details and with providing a more textured sound. It’s low end balance between mid-bass and sub-bass is also much better than what the A85 provides. Both have a large sound stage with the A85 providing a greater sense of movement and depth. It’s imaging is less accurate than the Polaris’, but it moves sound with a dynamicism Campfire’s hybrid is missing.

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    Final Thoughts:

    Fidue’s A85 Virgo was a tough one for me to review. It’s packaging is great, you get lots of accessories, it looks gorgeous and feels just as impressive in hand, and it’s supremely comfortable. All that is reasonably easy to discern, especially after putting as many hours through it as I have over the last month and a half. What made it tough to review was it’s sound signature and how unique it is.

    While I would generally consider the incoherency between the tone of the dynamic and balanced armature drivers a negative, here it’s not that straightforward. It doesn’t distract from the listening experience. It adds another layer to the presentation that makes it stand out from most other products I’ve tried. Because the two driver types sound so different, they end up complimenting each other rather than conflicting.

    Going back to a question posed at the start of the review, I don’t think the A85 meets Fidue’s mission of “reproducing original sound accurately”, but I don’t think that’s what they were going for anyway. That to me is highlighted by the quote you are greeted to upon first unboxing; “Original Sound, Beautifully Voiced”. Those four words describe the A85 to the T. It gives listeners a wholly unique listening experience among peers that I’ve heard, so if you are tired of traditional tuning and want a premium product with a unique signature, the A85 is worth a look.

    Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Fidue and Penon for the opportunity to hear this unique earphone.

    – B9Scrambler

    ***** ***** ***** ***** *****​

    Some Test Tunes:

    Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)

    Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)

    King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)

    King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)

    Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)

    Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)

    Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)

    Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)

    Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)

    Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)

    The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)

    Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)

    Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)

    Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)

    The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)

    Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)

    Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)

    Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)

    Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)

    Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)
  2. HiFiChris
    Fidue A85 Virgo - touched for the very first time
    Written by HiFiChris
    Published Dec 9, 2017
    3.0/5,
    Pros - • stunning build and aesthetics
    • good detail retrieval, speed and texture for a hybrid IEM
    • improved treble linearity compared to A83 and generally somewhat more refined sound
    • wide soundstage
    Cons - • midrange timbre a bit too off to be realistic or airy (recessed lower mids, strongly elevated upper mids) - the A83 was better in this regard
    • included carrying case feels somewhat cheep
    • MMCX connectors quite loosely spinning on the one I received (no sound drop-outs yet though)
    Preamble:

    Originally posted on my German audio review site, the "Kopfhörer-Lounge", here comes my review of the new hybrid triple-driver In-Ear Fidue A85 Virgo, the A83's successor.


    Introduction:

    The original Fidue A83 (that I never experienced, however its OEM, the UPQ Q-music QE80) used to be a rather popular triple-driver, three way hybrid in-ear monitor with a traditional layout featuring one dynamic driver as well as two Balanced Armature drivers per side. While its tendentially thin, brightness-oriented tuning (that however didn’t lack bass energy) was probably not the most true definition of the what the term “hi-fi” originally refers to, it offered an involving sound with a nicely coherent and harmonious tuning with a cleverly placed dip in the middle treble wherefore its highs were never aggressive but rather musical and airy. Yep, due to its quite involving and what some would call “emotional” sound, it also got me as its fan in the end (well, actually upon first listen and that impression is still true).

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    Now it’s late 2017 and Fidue is replacing the A83 with a new in-ear, the A85 “Virgo”, that now comes with full metal shells (comparison A83: metal faceplates, translucent plastic inner shell sides) that are reminiscent of their hybrid 5-driver flagship A91 SIRIUS albeit with a more ergonomic and ear-friendly shape, with a visual design that clearly resembles Fidue’s unique signature styling.


    Does it really offer stellar sound as its name could suggest? And in what ways does it differ from the A83? Those two questions (and more) will be answered in the course of this very review.


    Full disclosure: The Fidue A85 Virgo was sent to me by Fidue, free of charge, for the purpose of an (as always) honest, unpaid and unbiased review whose outcome and content is not influenced by the manufacturer in any way, and the in-ear is treated similarly fairly as the plethora of the audio gear that I bought and reviewed myself in the past and present.


    Technical Specifications:

    MSRP: $399
    Type: In-Ear, hybrid
    Drivers per Side: 3 (1x dynamic, 2x BA)
    Acoustic Ways: 3
    Impedance: 20 Ohms @ 1 kHz
    Sensitivity: 107 dB/mW


    Delivery Content:

    The cardboard box the A85 arrives in features the traditional black and green Fidue design and has got a magnetically latching lid.

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    Inside, one will find the in-ears as well as cable, one storage/carrying case, an airplane adapter, a 6.3 to 3.5 mm adapter and last but not least various silicone and foam tips. Not pictured but included as well is a tool for removing the cables along with a cleaning tool (both are the same that come with the A91 SIRIUS).


    Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

    Benny Tan, Fidue’s main designer, has always showed uniqueness in his designs – while I cannot comment on all of Fidue’s past models, the ones I have on hand (A65, A73, UPQ Q-music QE80, A91 SIRIUS) don’t only feature really solid to excellent build quality but also a unique and beautiful styling that definitely represents a continuous signature line for the hybrid models, yet they all have their unique styling elements.

    The new A85 Virgo’s shells are fully made of metal, just like the SIRIUS’s, however more ergonomically shaped, with a shape that has probably got more in common with the A73 than with the A83, such as the “swan wings” on the faceplate.
    Despite the different shape, the Virgo definitely looks somewhat like a smaller version of the SIRIUS, and definitely more premium than its predecessor, the A85/QE80.
    Really, in terms of design that is very beautiful, as well as build quality that is excellent, I only have good things to say about the A85.

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    Through the protective metal mesh screen on the nozzle, one can see the dual-bore sound outputs. Turning the in-ear around, two vents are present (a small front cavity vent along with a larger, split rear cavity ventilation port).

    Coloured side-markers are implemented into the cable’s MMCX connectors, which makes finding the correct side super easy. However, one thing isn’t so nice: the MMCX connectors are somewhat too loose wherefore the in-ears swivel without any resistance which will increase wear on the connectors.
    The silver cable doesn’t look all that special and premium but is surprisingly flexible even though it is a tad sticky. Personally, even though it doesn’t bother me and I kind of like it, I would still have preferred to see a braided or twisted cable. A good thing is though that is doesn’t lack a chin slider.

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    The included carrying case is unfortunately a bit of a letdown for the price – it looks good but feels cheap and its lid doesn’t latch securely at all wherefore it pops open way too easily, which is something you clearly don’t want to happen when you are on the go. The only premium and nice thing about it is the solid brushed and engraved aluminium lid as well as the soft padding on the lid and bottom on the inside.


    Comfort, Isolation:

    The Virgo is ergonomically shaped and average in terms of size. I’ve personally never had any comfort or fit issues with the Q-music QE80, and the same goes for the A85 that fits just as comfortably and ergonomically in my ears.

    Just like all Fidue in-ears from the A73 and above, the A85 is designed to be worn with the cables around the ears, which is also the most commonly found wearing style on-stage, in the professional sector and with most higher-end in-ears since this makes the fit more secure and reduces cable noise.
    The cable that comes with the Virgo has got permanently attached ear guides that are however free of any memory wire but consist of soft, flexible silicone that is naturally bent to mimic the ear’s natural shape.

    Noise isolation is rather average and the in-ear feels more open in this regard and doesn’t give you the amount of outer noise isolation that a fully closed in-ear would.


    Sound:

    My main sources for listening were the Cowon Plenue 2 and iBasso DX200 (AMP2 module).

    The ear tips that were used for listening, testing and all comparisons were the largest included single-flange silicone tips.

    Tonality:

    The A85 has got two vents on the inside – a small front cavity vent, and a larger, split vent for the rear cavity. If you are rather unlucky and the front cavity vent remains fully open, which is however rather unlikely due to the general anatomy of our ears, the lows will be basically flat and neutral. In case of the A85 that picks up on the A83’s/QE80’s general brightness, that’s probably not the best thing that could happen.
    All impressions below are noted with the front cavity vent fully blocked, as it naturally happens in most ears.

    The A85 picks up on the A83’s/QE80’s general brightness and more treble-oriented tuning, however it certainly does several things differently and is therefore a rather strong “Modellpflege” on the inside, too, and not only on the outside. Differences are for example a stronger upper midrange focus with a lesser dip around 5 kHz, along with reduced upper treble brightness, coming along with a leaner lower midrange and fundamental range compared to its predecessor and a stronger sub-bass focus in contrast to the QE80 that was rather midbass-oriented and had a bit of warmth in the lower midrange and fundamental range.

    Starting in the lows, they peak in the sub-bass with around 12 dB north of a diffuse-field in-ear like the Etymotic ER-4S/SR, leaving the focus mainly on the lower bass, and around 8 dB in the midbass that still has a nice thump but blends in nicely.
    The bass decreases nicely from the sub-bass towards the lower midrange/fundamental range and there is already no elevation anymore around 300 kHz. What Fidue have achieved here really is a bass presentation that has got a nice, energetic low bass thump if the recording calls for it, however without affecting the lower midrange and lower instruments that don’t gain much additional body.

    Where the A85 unfortunately struggles is the midrange – it has got a broad dip in the rot and lower midrange (between around 300 and 900 Hz), which leads to (especially) male vocals lacking body and becoming thin sounding. This is unfortunately emphasised by the gradually climbing lower treble/upper midrange emphasis, something that is definitely not uncommon among several Asian in-ears, but doesn’t really suit the A85 since it just makes the midrange lack even more body and sound too artificially thin. The midrange’s timbre is therefore both objectively and also subjectively too lean and already unnatural.
    The QE80 also had an elevated upper midrange and therefore a slightly greater focus on female vocals and airiness, however it had enough lower midrange presence and warmth to make the central frequency range appear balanced and quite natural. This unfortunately is what the Virgo lacks, especially with male voices. Sigh. What a pity!
    Sometimes this midrange tuning can work, but most of the time the timbre comes across as just too thin and artificial. Violins and pianos therefore are on the somewhat thinner side of the spectrum as well, although not to the degree the vocal range is, especially with male vocals.
    Subjectively, I wouldn’t even say that the added brightness in instruments such as violins is all that bothering – if you accept that this area is a bit more on the coloured side, the delivery can even become quite emotional and, dare I say, slightly “spectacular”. However, also subjectively, although I am tolerant, the timbre with (especially male) voices is just too much off to really be enjoyable even for me. Yes, you can get used to it and your brain and ears will eventually get used to that (, and you can also add some mild EQ tweaks), but that’s not really the meaning of it all.

    Other than that midrange faux pas, the treble is implemented really well – apart from just a small 5 kHz dip, the highs that are undeniably somewhat on the brighter side as well although not to the extent of becoming artificial or too bright, are very even and harmonious, without any audible peaks and great extension in the super treble past 10 kHz, making them therefore overall a bit more even than the DUNU DK-3001’s upper end presentation (however the DUNU has got the superior important midrange realism and balance in comparison).
    Due to that even and harmonious treble delivery, high notes never come across as harsh, sharp, too splashy (unless one is generally sensitive to elevated highs) or peaky. This is the refinement that a bright sounding in-ear is supposed to have in the highs. Well done in this area at least, Fidue.

    - - -

    Interim conclusion: Oh, dear Fidue, what have you done? Given the A85 Virgo a really nice bass and treble implementation, and the important midrange was left behind with a too thin presentation to be accurate or realistic with voices. Why, just why?! The inner Fidue fan inside me is crying small, bitter tears of sadness and wishes that the A85 would have had the A91 SIRIUS’s or at least Q-music QE80’s midrange balance instead.

    [​IMG]


    Resolution:

    Resolution is very good and the A85 doesn’t have anything one wouldn’t want from a hybrid in-ear in this price range – great and speedy retrieval of fine midrange details with good speech intelligibility, precise and sharp note separation in the highs and in general, and a bass that can definitely be recognised as a dynamic driver bass but is nicely integrated with good details as well as control and just the right amount of decay to make it appear “natural” instead of “slow”. Basically those attributes you likely wish to find in a good hybrid in-ear.

    Bass doesn’t have the speed and tightness of most Balanced Armature woofer implementations and therefore probably something you especially want if you get a hybrid in-ear.
    The A85 doesn’t struggle with control at all but delivers a bottom-end that can keep up with faster tracks quite well despite being a little on the slower side in terms of attack and decay, nonetheless muddiness is not present but instead there is some nice texture, although not to the same extent as the DUNU DK-3001 or (much) more expensive HiFiMan RE2000 are able to deliver. The lows are still really nice though, and with somewhat improved tightness compared to the QE80.

    Thanks to its good resolution in the highs, the A85 Virgo is also able to pull off the added brightness in the upper range quite effortlessly and easily (which however doesn’t improve the midrange timbre of course), and it doesn’t appear any sharp, edgy or blunt.

    Soundstage:

    The A85 has got a pretty wide soundstage base that is close to touching my shoulders’ outer edges. Depth is also present, although with about 60% compared to the width.
    Separation, placement and layering are pretty clean and have definitely improved somewhat compared to the QE80.

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    In Comparison with other In-Ears:

    iBasso IT03:

    The Virgo has got the more pronounced sub- and midbass but lacks some warmth in the fundamental range – the IT03 is just more accurate between 300 Hz and 2 kHz and has got the better midrange balance, despite having a sub-bass focused bass presentation too, and despite having an elevated upper midrange as well that however isn’t as thin and bright as the Fidue’s and therefore a good bit more natural and less artificial in comparison.
    The Virgo’s treble is brighter but overall more linearly tuned.

    In terms of detail retrieval, I see the Virgo as somewhat above the IT03, sounding overall a bit cleaner. Bass speed is where the IT03 still slightly wins though.

    The Virgo’s soundstage is somewhat wider while depth is comparable.
    Instrument placement is pretty much similarly precise on both in-ears with the Virgo having a slight advantage in terms of separation due to its wider base.

    UPQ Q-music QE80 (Fidue A83 OEM):

    When it comes to aesthetics and build quality, the Virgo definitely appears like a much more premium and modern product. The QE80’s cable is a bit nicer and more flexible though.

    The Virgo has got the somewhat stronger sub-bass and lower midbass, giving it a presentation that comes more from “down low”. The Virgo however is also leaner in the fundamental range and lower midrange, and therefore lacks the countervailing lower midrange warmth that the QE80 has to balance out the upper midrange elevation. Therefore the QE80 sounds more balanced and harmonious in the midrange.
    Treble linearity has improved with the Virgo that sounds even more coherent here, and while it is still on the brighter side, it sounds tamer in the upper highs.

    When it comes to the technical level, the Virgo seems like a step up, which is mainly because it sounds somewhat cleaner overall, with improved note separation and cleanness. Pure resolution is higher too, but I would mainly say that the cleaner general presentation is what makes the Virgo appear more refined.
    While the QE80 has got more bass body, the Virgo’s lows are tighter and feature the somewhat higher control with more complex and faster tracks.

    In terms of soundstage, the Virgo offers a bit more spatial width but doesn’t fully have the QE80’s spatial depth and therefore openness and front projection. Instrument separation has improved though wherefore the soundstage appears cleaner overall.


    Conclusion:

    The Fidue A85 Virgo has got areas where it really shines, such as its truly beautiful design and excellent build quality, good bass and treble implementation, high resolution and good technical delivery that you would expect from a good hybrid in-ear, and a wide soundstage along with quite precise separation.
    But then again there are some shortcomings such as the somewhat too loose MMCX connectors (the in-ears swivel way too easily), the somewhat cheap feeling carrying case with a lid that pops open way too easily, and the midrange that is just a bit too much on the lean side, crossing the border of being vibrant and airy to the extent of making (especially male) vocals become too thin and artificial sounding.

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    So the A85 Virgo is a theoretically good in-ear that needs some improvement, especially in the midrange – sure, one could add two simple EQ adjustments or get used to this non-accurate and lean (lower) midrange, but is this really the point?
    Fidue, you could have done better at the price. This I don’t only say objectively, but also subjectively as someone who considers himself a Fidue fan.
      B9Scrambler and tarhana like this.
  3. twister6
    Mid-forward and damn proud of it!
    Written by twister6
    Published Dec 7, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - unique mid-forward signature, detailed sound, excellent all metal build, quality removable cable, plenty of accessories.
    Cons - price.


    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 of my readers on Head-fi.

    Manufacturer website: Fidue, available for sale on Penon Audio.



    Intro.

    It has been awhile since the last Fidue release, considering their flagship 5way hybrid Sirius (A91 model) was announced almost year and a half ago. Turned out, Benny Tan and his team were busy in the lab crafting their next hybrid IEM labeled Virgo (A85 model). Coincidentally, Virgo is the 2nd largest constellation in the sky, just like A85 release being 2nd in line, next to A91 flagship.

    Once I learned it’s going to be 3way hybrid, the first thought that crossed my mind was how it compares to their legendary A83 which hasn’t faded away yet, even years after its release. Fidue usually puts a lot of thought into the design and the tuning, trying to create something unique, something that going to stand the test of time. That’s how it was with A83 and A91 releases, so let’s find out if A85 follows the same footsteps.

    Unboxing.

    It's amazing, but throughout all these years and different releases, Fidue packaging still has a similar theme with a signature black and green box, and nearly the same layout of printed info. You still get a detailed description of the product, printed across the green wide stripe on the front magnetic cover, and detailed specification of IEMs on the back.

    Under the magnetic cover, you will find a printed user manual with tips about the maintenance, wear, and cable removal. Fidue cables have a very tight secure mmcx connector fit, and require use of the included shim tool which looks like a guitar pick - some might not even realize that until you read these cable removal instructions.

    Inside the packaging box you will also find a foam insert with a cutout for the case and A85 iems, along with a box of additional accessories underneath the top foam insert layer.

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    Accessories.

    While there is no denial that A91 has a truly premium accessories package, A85 takes it a notch down so it's not overshadowing the flagship. You get 4 pairs of standard silicone tips (L/M/S/XS), 2 pairs of double-flange silicone tips (L/M), a pair of no-brand medium foam tips, and another pair of genuine medium Comply T500 foam tips - plenty for any shape of the earcanal.

    You also get 3.5mm to 6.3mm stereo adapter and airline adapter, a filler which some might find useful. You will also find a guitar-pick shaped tool for cable removal, as mentioned before, instruction how to use it is printed inside the packaging cover. Plus, you get a little poker tool which is intended to clean IEMs.

    Last, but not least, is a custom storage box, all plastic rectangular box with rounded corners and aluminum cover plate with Fidue name. It's a nice looking iem storage box, though I found the latch to be not as secure, so make sure you don't drop it.

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    Cable.

    The cable is removable, with universal mmcx right-angled connectors that have red/blue edge ring to indicate Right/Left sides, standard 1.3m length, and upgraded Silver Plated OFC wires. The 3.5mm TRS plug is gold-plated with a straight aluminum housing that has a nice grip and short strain relief. Y-splitter has a matching shape and strain relief on each side, and you will also find a short aluminum chin-slider with one side open to break apart the cable going up. I have seen this on a few other cables before, not sure if it's indeed for security purpose or just to look cool.

    The cable itself is soft and flexible, no memory effect, with a clear rubbery coating and what appears to be another tightly-braided aluminum shielding underneath. There was a little bit of microphonics, but not too bad. Going up after the splitter toward iem connectors, there is a flexible black rubber pre-shaped earhook tube that goes all the way around your ear. At first, I had to use both of my hands when inserting A85 and securing the cable, but then I figured out a way to do it with just one hand. This is not a memory-wire earhook, it's springy and pre-shaped and very secure when you wear it. You can go running, jumping, any kind of extreme exercise activity without worrying of these coming off your ears.

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    When it comes to removable cable, I usually like to cable-roll, but majority of my premium aftermarket cables are 2pin. Plus, considering the price of these monitors, it probably makes no sense to use a cable which cost 2x-3x as much as IEM itself. Thus, I figured why not try Oriveti Affinity I recently received for testing, those are 8-conductor hybrid cables with 4 pure copper and 4 spc braided wires.

    Stock vs Affinity - expands the soundstage width (quite noticeable), lifts the low end with more sub-bass rumble and slightly lifts the mid-bass impact. Upper mids are a little brighter now with some improvement in transparency, but a little less natural and colder in comparison to a stock cable. Treble has a little more crunch. Also, Affinity has less microphonics and you can select any termination with this cable when ordering (2.5mm, 3.5mm, or 4.4mm).

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    Design.

    According to Fidue, A85 is a 3-way hybrid design with their own exclusive dynamic driver, covering lows, and 2x custom-made premium BA drivers, for mids and highs. Also, Fidue mentioned a custom 3D acoustic chamber design with internal divider. While I don't know how it looks inside, on the outside it's a very compact and ergonomic all aluminum slick design. The shape kind of resembles their A73 design around faceplate area, while inner part of the shell has resemblance to A91, especially around the vents.

    The shells are very lightweight, only 4g each, fit very comfortably in my ears, and the length and the angle of the nozzle are just perfect. The nozzle itself doesn't have a lip, just straight, but surprisingly the eartips never came off or slide out easily. Nozzle has a perforated mesh cover to keep earwax out. Also, on the inside you have R/L clear marking, and on the faceplate a traditional overlapping 2-wing design.

    As I mentioned already, mmcx cable attachment is very secure, and unlike A91, there is no threaded part for extra security, though the metal red/blue rings on the right-angled connector housing do remind me of A91 cable. When it comes to the size, A85 is smaller than A91, and even smaller than A83, with in-ear fit which is the most comfortable among 3.

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    The fit.

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    Sound analysis.

    Upon receiving Virgo hybrid, I put this IEM through 100+ hours of burn-in to make sure the dynamic driver, crossover elements, and the cable reached its full potential. The testing was done using stock cable.

    Once I started my critical listening, I found A85 to have an above the average soundstage expansion where I hear a little more depth than width. Based on that, imaging is good, but not outstanding. Also, it has a neutral-revealing tonality with a distinct mid-forward sound signature. As a matter of fact, I would have never guessed it's a 3way hybrid since this is not a typical sound tuning of other 3way hybrids I'm familiar with. Also, the sound is dynamic, but not very layered or separated. The focus here is certainly on mids, their clarity and retrieval of details.

    Bass has a good extension, going down to a deep sub-bass rumble, but the quantity is close to neutral. The same with mid-bass, having a tight fast punch and closer to neutral quantity. Not a very typical DD performance when it comes to 3way hybrid, but the focus here is more on accuracy and articulation rather than impact. If you expect a typical DD low end performance, these would not be for you.

    Lower mids are very neutral, giving room for the star of this tuning - the upper mids which are rather forward, detailed, clear, and natural. The retrieval of details is not on micro-detail level, these are certainly not analytical, they just natural, clear, especially when it comes to vocals. Mids are not congested, but also do lack some layering which I usually hear when you sense air between the layers.

    Treble has less focus in A85 tuning. It's there, but lacking sparkle and airiness. It's not necessary rolled off, just attenuated enough to push it into the background, giving more room for upper mids to shine. Just in case if you haven't picked up on it, upper mids are the star of A85 tuning.

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    Comparison.

    Of course, many would be curious to find out about A85 vs A83 comparison, to see if it's an upgrade or a sidegrade, and how it stacks up against their current A91 flagship. In addition, I compared it to a few other popular 3way hybrids.

    A85 vs A83 - very similar soundstage expansion, though A85 sounds a little narrower in comparison to A83. The big difference here is in a sound signature. While A83 has a W-shaped balanced sound tuning, A85 has a different tuning approach where in comparison at one side of the spectrum it reduces the sub-bass rumble and mid-bass impact, and at the other side it significantly cuts the 10k peak and rolls off the treble, reducing sparkle and airiness. As a result, you are left with a clear and detailed mid-forward signature with a focus on clarity and natural timbre of vocals and other instruments. A83 has a lot more treble energy and a relative boost in low end. The bottom line, A85 is not an upgrade, but rather a sidegrade.

    A85 vs A91 - A91 soundstage expands in width, and the sound signature is more balanced. A91 bass is more lifted, in comparison to more neutral A85 bass. Mids have very similar quality and quantity with a forward detailed presentation where A91 is more refined and more layered. Also, in a comparison to a more neutral A85 treble, A91 has more sparkle and airiness, but not as much as the original A83. Staying true to its flagship status, A91 still holds the crown over A83 and A85.

    A85 vs DN2kJ - 2kJ soundstage is wider and deeper, while the signature is more v-shaped in comparison to mid-forward A85. With a bass, 2kJ has a little more sub-bass rumble and maybe a touch more mid-bass impact, while A85 bass is more neutral in comparison. With lower mids, 2kJ is a little leaner, losing some body while A85 is more neutral. Upper mids are more natural in A85 while 2kJ tuning is more on analytical level, being brighter and colder. The big difference is around treble where A85 is smooth and neutral while 2kJ explodes with a bright crunchy treble that has a lot of sparkle and airiness. 2kJ treble is splashy, and those who crave more upper frequency energy will like it, but if you want something more natural, A85 is a better choice in this comparison.

    A85 vs IT03 - IT03 soundstage is wider, while depth is similar. IT03 has a more balanced tuning vs mid-forward A85. Both have a similar bass extension, but IT03 has more sub-bass rumble and stronger mid-bass impact. Both have neutral lower mids, and A85 upper mids are more forward while IT03 upper mids pushed a little back. Both upper mids have a more natural tonality with plenty of clarity, but IT03 is more transparent and with better layering. With treble, while A85 is more neutral, IT03 has more sparkle and airiness with better treble extension.

    A85 vs New Primacy - very similar soundstage expansion. Prim has a more balanced signature with a warmer tonality, while A85 is more mid-forward with a neutral revealing tonality. Prim sub-bass goes deeper with more textured rumble and mid-bass has more impact while A85 is more neutral in comparison. A85 lower mids are more neutral and leaner in comparison to fuller lower mids of Prim which gives these IEMs more body. Upper mids are more forward and more revealing in A85 while Prim is smoother and warmer and slightly pushed back in comparison. Both have a similar smooth warmer treble which lacks extra sparkle and airiness.

    Fidue family picture.

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    Pair up.

    With an impedance of 20 ohms and sensitivity of 107dB, A85 is easy to drive, and I used a variety of DAPs in this pair up comparison.

    Plenue 2 - wider soundstage, mid-forward sound sig with a more neutral bass, neutral lower mids, forward detailed upper mids, smoother treble. This was my baseline sound analysis.

    LPG - wider soundstage, still mid-forward sound sig but the bass impact is stronger, including more noticeable sub-bass rumble, still neutral lower mids, and forward detailed upper mids, treble is smooth but has a little more sparkle. LPG here really helps with a bass.

    Shanling M3S - wider soundstage, mid-forward sound sig, nicely textured sub-bass extension with a more neutral quantity, fast tight mid-bass punch, lean lower mids, thinner and more forward upper mids, bright crisp airy treble. This pair up benefits treble extension.

    Opus#2 - wide soundstage, more balanced sound signature though mids-are still pushing more forward, bass has a deeper sub-bass textured rumble, mid-bass impact is stronger, not as neutral as some other pair ups, upper mids are forward, detailed, and treble has more sparkle and airiness. It was nice to see sound sig reshape a bit toward a balanced tuning.

    Cayin N3 - wider soundstage, mid-forward sound sig, nice sub-bass extension with a little more quantity, fast mid-bass punch, neutral lower mids, uppers mids are detailed, transparent, forward, more revealing (though, less organic), treble is crisp and airy with a great extension.

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    Conclusion.

    After receiving Fidue A85 Virgo, the big question I had was if this new 3way going to replace A83. I'm sure it will be a question on many Fidue fans mind, considering how long ago the original A83 was released. The conclusion I arrived to indicates that A85 is a sidegrade, rather than an upgrade to A83. It's like a blend of refined A63 mid-forward signature with A73 compact shape and A83 driver configuration along with many design cues from A91 flagship. All this put together ended up being a new 3way hybrid A85 Virgo design.

    A85 Virgo is not exactly an all rounder IEM due to its mid-forward signature, but its mid-forward tuning is done to perfection. It will surprise you when going through different pair ups where in some cases the signature became more balanced. Besides its unique tuning and fatigue free tonality, A85 Virgo has a solid beautiful all metal shell design with a very comfortable fit, great selection of accessories, and a premium removable stock cable. At the end of the day, I do find A85 to be a great addition to Fidue family of IEMs.
      ryanjsoo likes this.
  4. audio123
    Fidue Virgo A85 - Soothing & Detailed
    Written by audio123
    Published Nov 21, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Matured Presentation, Great Stage, Solid Build Quality
    Cons - Cable can be braided
    Introduction

    Fidue is a Chinese company that specializes in producing in-ear monitors. Their popular models are the Fidue A83 and their flagship, Fidue Sirius A91. Recently, they have produced the Fidue A85 Virgo which is a triple hybrid iem consisting of 2 Balanced Armature drivers and 1 Dynamic driver. I would like to thank Penon Audio and Fidue for this review unit. At the moment, you can purchase the Fidue Virgo A85 from https://penonaudio.com/Fidue-Virgo-A85 and https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B076M8PWTM/.

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    Specifications

    • Drivers: Armature × 2 & Dynamic × 1
    • Frequency Range: 7-41000Hz
    • Impedance: 20Ω
    • Sensitivity: 107dB
    • Max Input Power: 50mW
    • Distortion: <1%
    Unboxing & Accessories

    The Fidue Virgo comes in a black package with Fidue brand name and the model name printed on it. The transparent film allows one to see 1 side of the Virgo. Inside the package, there is a hard case, 2 packs of tips, 1 pack of foam tips, 1 flight adapter, 1 headphone adapter, 1 metal tool for removing the mmcx cable, 1 cleaning tool and 1 instruction manual.

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    IEM Build & Design

    The Virgo has a matte gun-metal surface to it and it is rather oval in shape. On the faceplate, there are layers like the A83 and A91. There is the Fidue brand name printed on the top layer. The shell is made out of aluminium and it is constructed well. It is light weight. On the inside of each iem shell, there are 2 spots with vents. The nozzle is angled with a metal mesh. Through the metal mesh, there are 2 bores. There are L & R markings near the mmcx socket to differentiate between left and right. Overall, the iem has fantastic build to it.

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    Cable Build & Design

    The cable that comes with the Virgo is made of silver plated oxygen free copper. It is not braided and has a 2 core design. The build quality is quite good. There is flexibility to the cable. On each of the mmcx connectors, there is a ring that indicates left and right. The ring on the left mmcx connector is blue in colour while on the right, it is red in colour. There is a memory cable section that is enclosed in a black rubber tubing. Moving down, the chin slider is squarish with round edges. The y-splitter has Virgo printed on it with strain relief. Lastly, the jack is gold plated with small housing that sports the Fidue brand name. There is strain relief to it.

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    Sound Analysis

    Lows

    The Virgo extends its sub-bass greatly with a moderate rumble. It presents itself in a clean manner. The mid-bass has a rather moderate slam to it. There is a good punch and the bass presented is tight and controlled. The decay is moderate with pace. Each bass note is being expressed with weight. Bass nature is towards the slow side but there is still energy in it. Bass texture is rendered smoothly. There is warmth and smoothness. Coupled with the precise bass articulation, the soothing bass approach helps to develop a relaxing feel to the overall music. The transition to the lower mids is smooth too.

    Mids

    The midrange on the Virgo takes on a balanced and smooth approach. The lower mids on the Virgo has a moderate amount of body to it and it does not thickens male vocals too much. The upper mids on the Virgo is not very forward but there is a good control on it. Female vocals are presented gently and the sweetness is being portrayed. The definition of the midrange is clear and at a high standard. There is a good display of details. The mastery in the midrange is matured. Overall, the midrange is relaxing to listen to.

    Highs

    The treble is extended greatly and there is no graininess in it. It is being displayed in a smooth approach. There is no signs of sibilance and harshness. There is a slight lack of crisp since it operates in a rather laid-back manner. The treble has a good amount of body and it is presented with a nice texture. There is a good amount of air at the top end with a mature display. The details retrieval has a high level of standard.

    Soundstage

    The Virgo is able to excel in the soundstage width. The positioning of vocals and instruments is accurate and there is no congestion at all. The depth is existent with space. Virgo has an open and natural expansion that improves the overall sound.

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    Comparisons

    Fidue Virgo A85 vs iBasso IT03

    The Virgo has less sub-bass extension than the IT03 but it has more quantity. The Virgo presents its sub-bass more smoothly and the reproduction is soothing to listen to. The mid-bass on the Virgo is more present and there is more control and mastery. The Virgo excels in the bass dynamics. Bass texture on the Virgo is rendered more smoothly and the bass decay on the IT03 is faster with each note having a more impactful hit. The bass nature on both is quite different. On the Virgo, it is soothing while on the IT03, there is agility to the bass. The lower mids on the Virgo has more quantity. Male vocals are presented well. The upper mids on the IT03 is more forward but the Virgo has more control and mastery. Female vocals are more energetic on the IT03 but matured sounding on the Virgo. In the treble section, the Virgo operates in a smooth and detailed approach while IT03 is bright. There is slight sibilance and harshness for the IT03 but there is none on the Virgo. The amount of air rendered is very similar but Virgo has an edge. For soundstage, the Virgo has a more natural expansion in its stage width and there is better depth. Both are not congested. The resolution on both is very similar.

    Fidue Virgo A85 vs Dunu DK-3001

    The Virgo has more sub-bass quantity than the DK-3001 but there is more extension on the DK-3001. The depth is better expressed. There is definition in their bass reproduction but there is slightly more crisp on the DK-3001. The mid-bass on the A85 has more weight and I find it to have a nice slam. DK-3001 approaches it in a more authoritative approach. The lower mids on the A85 is more full and the body allows it to display male vocals better. The upper mids on the DK-3001 is slightly more forward with more crisp and definition. Female vocals sound smooth on the Virgo and sound exciting on the DK-3001. In terms of treble, DK-3001 extends better with more brightness and sparkle. Virgo operates in a different approach and targets the smooth and relaxing style. Treble articulation on both is very similar. The soundstage of Virgo has a more natural expansion in its width while the depth is better presented in the DK-3001. The resolution on the DK-3001 is slightly better.

    Fidue Virgo A85 vs Oriolus Forsteni

    The sub-bass quantity on the Virgo is more than the Forsteni and there is similar extension. On the Forsteni, definition is slightly more. Bass texture on the Virgo is much smoother. The bass decay on both is very similar. Mid-bass of the Virgo is more musical with a fuller body slam. Each bass note on the Forsteni has more agility but there is compromise on the musicality. I feel the Forsteni has a good engagement but the Virgo presents its bass note in a matured soothing way which makes it a relaxing listen. There is finesse displayed by the Virgo. The lower mids on the Virgo is better expressed with more body. The upper mids on the Forsteni is slightly more forward and appears to be shouty in comparison. The treble on the Forsteni is more bright but the articulation on the Virgo is more precise. There is more sparkle on the Forsteni but both display similar amount of air. Resolution on the Virgo is better.

    Conclusion

    The Fidue Virgo is a triple hybrid iem that demonstrates a high level of maturity with a smooth approach. It provides a soothing yet detailed sound that is not fatiguing and easy to listen to. Coupled with the accessories, the Virgo is quite a complete package. Fidue has done well again in the Virgo. The Virgo is solid in both the sound and build quality.

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    For more reviews, visit https://audio123blog.wordpress.com/ .

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