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FiR Audio M5

Rating:
5/5,
  • The M5 TOTL by FiR Audio, a new market entrant manufacturing tubeless universal and custom IEMs IMG_8213.jpg

Recent Reviews

  1. HansBarbarossa
    FiR Audio M5: five triumphal chords
    Written by HansBarbarossa
    Published Aug 20, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sound, design, convenience, build quality and materials
    Cons - No (if you leave the price behind the brackets)
    Do you know what the secret of a musical piece, which both true connoisseurs and professional critics will call genius? The plays, where the composer, as if a wizard, sends the listener to a wonderful world of trembling consonants and constellations from notes, spend along minor canyons and major peaks, and at the end, during the sound of final, triumphal chords, leaves alone with the flowing euphoria.

    However, the magicians from the American company FIR Audio, it seems, know such a magical recipe. Recently, they released a line of in-ear monitors: M2, M3, M4 and M5. I was fortunate enough to be acquainted with the last, five-driver model. If you express your feelings briefly, these are masterpiece CIEM. However, I will talk about this in detail in the review, but for now a few words about FIR Audio.

    A year ago, I introduced you to their vacuum cleaners (FIR VAC) designed to care for in-ear monitors. After that, the guys developed some more useful devices for testing CIEM / IEM, as well as very remarkable cables for in-ear monitors.

    Well, now we meet - FIR Audio M5!




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    Text by Alexey Kashirskey aka Hans Barbarossa / audio-ph.ru


    Specifications

    5 drivers (1-ESTAT, 1-BA High, 1BA High-Mid, 1-BA Mid, 1-DD Low)
    Impedance: 6, 8 Ohm
    Frequency response: 10 Hz – 20 kHz
    Replaceable modules: Atom-X
    Tubeless Shell design technology
    Removable cable "Scorpion Wire": - 1,2м / 1,6м, RCX connectors, jack-3,5мм




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    Order of custom in-ear monitors

    FIR Audio in-ear monitors can be ordered both in universal (IEM) and custom (CIEM) versions. I was lucky to get the second option.



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    The procedure for ordering individual IEM is quite simple. You need to go to firaudio.com, register, go to the Designer menu, select the model of interest, its design (design, connectors, and cable length) and pay for the purchase. Then you turn to the center of hearing, take your ear-impressions and send them to the manufacturer. After that, look forward to the arrival of your exclusive earphones.


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    Appearance kit and ergonomics

    FIR M5 arrived to me in a silver tin round jar-snuffbox with a screw-off lid. On top is a white sticker with the name of the happy owner of the CIEM and the brand logo in the form of perky protruding rabbit ears.


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    Inside, this elegant tin can is completely glued with soft foam rubberized material for maximum protection of the CIEM during transport. In addition to the M5, we find a cool cable there, two (black and gold) replaceable atom-X modules, and another, gray module, is already installed in the CIEM, a brush for caring for sound pipes and a leather strap for fixing the wire in a twisted state.



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    The 26x8 Awg twisted black cable is made of oxygen-free silver-plated copper and has the spectacular name of “Scorpion Wire”. It has twice as many individual cores, compared to standard IEM wires. Due to this, the resistance is reduced by half, which allows the earphones to sound exactly as intended by the manufacturer, without unpleasant impurities and frequency response distortions.


    Scorpio is a lightweight, flexible and extremely elastic cable. It has no memory effect and is pleasant tactile. When ordering, I selected new connectors from FIR Audio - RCX and an angled jack of 3.5 mm, similar to Oyaide.



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    The M5s are large, but fairly lightweight and comfortable. Landing is supposed to be exclusively behind the ear.

    When choosing the design of my CIEM, I settled on a black shell and a faceplate with a "Web" pattern. The result was a direct illustration from a Gothic novel: it’s like an old mirror completely covered by a web, on which letters appear: the silver logo “FIR” on the left earphone and the name of the model “M5” on the right. This whole “mystical story” is varnished and polished to perfection.


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    The shell itself is made flawlessly, it clearly repeats the shape of my auricle and ear canal. The sound guide is neatly covered with a metal mesh, which eliminates the ingress of dust and dirt.

    Well, performance, materials, and ease of use - everything is on the highest level here!

    However, this part of the review is just an aperitif. If after it your audiophile appetite has played out, now you can go to the main dish.


    Sound impressions

    Before listening directly, you need to dwell on the technical features of the model. Five drivers are located inside each earphone: one DD dynamic is responsible for low frequencies, one BA for the middle, second BA for the upper middle, and the third BA, together with one electrostatic, are responsible for the correct reproduction of the high-frequency register.

    The M5, as well as all other models of in-ear monitors from FIR, is built on the principle of "Tubeless Design". This is the company's patented technology, which means that the design does not use acoustic tubes, as well as separate cameras for drivers. In such solutions, the most accurate calculation is necessary for the correct location of all components inside the earphone shell, otherwise re-reflections and resonances cannot be avoided. Well, when it comes to the use of replaceable modules, the task becomes even more complicated. The way the developers dealt with it in this case definitely deserves applause.


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    However, let us talk more about this a bit later, but for now, we will deal with replaceable modules. The Atom-X is a metal cylinder valve acting as an acoustic filter for fine-tuning the sound of CIEM. It also pits the air plug that forms between the earpiece and the eardrum. Thus, the pressure exerted on the eardrum is reduced, and our hearing is not exposed to any risks.

    The Atom-X modules, as you already know, vary in color: gray - neutral, black adds low frequencies, well, and gold - the most bass.




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    Listening on the equipment: MyST DAC 1866OCU V.2, Lotoo paw Gold, QLS QA-361, iBasso DX220 (AMP9), iFI xDSD, iFI xCAN, and iFI micro iDSD Black Lable



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    The M5 played at the highest level with all the devices, the handwriting changed slightly depending on the source, giving the M5 its unique shade. Best of all, the FIR M5 played with my powerful stationary MyST DAC 1866OCU V.2. This, I tell you, is inimitable. Bravo, berry nice, berrysimo! Tasty and lucid! Do not be surprised, I’m chewing blueberries in the course of the play, which is why such berry-juicy puns, ha-ha.


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    These CIEM can cope with any musical genres without any problems, and replaceable modules allow you to accurately add weighty sound to the sound without touching the rest of the registers. I mainly used gray atom-X, and even in it, it seems to me, bass is quite enough. But I also liked the other two options with even lower elaboration.


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    By the way, when ordering, you can choose M5 with a built-in gray atom-X. But we must understand that in this case it will not work in any way to finish the bass.


    The sound of the M5 is massive, polished and natural, delivered in a neutral-warm manner with a darkened background, a well-designed low-frequency range, well-textured bass, a smooth, extremely rich, detailed midrange and an unusually clear and accurate high-frequency range. This is a thick, adult, thoroughbred and extremely naturalistic way of delivering sound.


    M5 give out a sprawling stereo panorama, harmoniously and proportionately building a virtual space both in width and in depth. The volume is amazing, and the dynamic range is wide.


    M5 impresses with its temperament, clear articulation, good speed characteristics, high resolution and extraordinary tonal accuracy. I note a competent configuration with excellent driver matching and a complete absence of phase distortion.


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    The musical canvas is drawn unusually lively, embossed, with a symbiotic plexus of small and large parts of the composition, excellent transmission of contrast. It is integral, volumetric, proportionately built along all axes of sound coordinates.


    However, all the above definitions cannot convey the most important thing. Inside the M5 there are clearly not only impeccably tuned drivers, but also a pinch of some magical powder. Otherwise, how else to explain the magical abilities of this model. With these CIEMs, the virtual audio images in my head came to life, grew flesh and became tangible. The virtual world turned into the real one. Now you are reading these lines and smiling incredulously, but in vain, I am not joking. The creators of the FIR M5 not only collected beautiful earphones, but also breathed life into their creation.


    Okay, reluctantly set aside my lyrics; let us move on to the frequency amplitude.



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    The bass is precise, thick and resilient, with good control and quality texture development. It is neatly forced and clearly interacts with the mid-frequency register, complementing it with depth, a rhythmic base and an unusually lively, significant substance. The blow is powerful and biting, going deep down. The drum kit is perfected: powerful rumbles from the dancing of sticks on cymbals and drums scatter on both sides of the listener. Testing of the low-frequency register strikes with accuracy, reverberations and clearly distinguishable impact force. Wow, goosebumps are running down the back!



    The mids is smooth, natural, timbrally rich and textured. Here, every musical image is endowed with a bodily basis. This is an extremely naturalistic and melodic manner, with a striking depiction of the contrast and all the details of the composition, where each instrument and every note played is in its place in space. Gracefully stringed instruments, winds and especially vocals. Here there is a light, correct, I would even say, jewelry rise in the mid-to-high junction zone, which adds to the vocal parts a pleasant charm, gloss and expressiveness. This is a well-balanced and at the same time emotional performance, where all elements of the composition are served unusually accurately, large-scale and multifaceted.


    High frequencies are reproduced clearly and harmoniously. Their quantity and quality also does not cause the slightest complaints. The register is transmitted cleanly, accurately and distinctly, without sharpness and distortion. This is an unusually reliable and maximally correct manner, with good articulation, served in a light, elegant and comfortable form. Here, as in the other registers, there is agreement and harmonious interaction with the entire frequency range. Everything is beautiful and vibrant, simply amazing!



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    I cannot resist not to listen to my beloved Paul McCartney in the M5 brilliant So Bad.

    Bass smoothly and recklessly fills the space. He waltzes himself and makes the whole composition spin around him. Its pulsation carries away measured drums. Bah, it’s Ringo Star himself following his old friend and paving the way for the rest with his lazy bit.

    And here is the sparkling brilliant brute force guitar playing in the strings with windy, light, like a summer breeze, keys.

    Paul McCartney's pure falsetto cuts space and time:

    And if you leave, my pain will go
    But that's no good to me
    Girl, I love you, yes, I love you so bad...

    Backing vocals scatter on both sides of the listener, going far beyond the boundaries of space and are already fading there.

    The singing of violins and cello, enveloping like a languid aroma, makes you tremble with your whole body.


    M5 amazingly convey the volume, texture and topography of the song. Every sound, every breath, intonation and touch of the strings are felt by the skin, and at some moment you literally sink in this moving melodic mass.

    Amazing, chic, indescribable. It is something fantastic.


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    As for the frequencies (In the dry)


    Lows - timbre-rich, with a powerful clap and a precise rolling kick. The bass is deep, embossed, gives the sound a warm and analogue hue.


    Mids - even, smooth, detailed, organic, with excellent resolution. The pitch is clean and layered, with an extremely natural transmission of tones.


    Highs - clean, smooth and natural. They are transmitted clearly, accurately and without any flaws.


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    Conclusion

    FIR Audio M5 is an amazing CIEM model that geniuses have created, and I don't exaggerate a bit. For me personally, these in-ear monitor became an opening, a door to the bright future of portable sound. To create such a masterpiece, it is not enough to be a talented engineer; you need to have a deep understanding of the industry, an impeccable taste and a visionary gift. From an excess of feelings, to be honest, it is difficult for me to continue to talk about these earphones. Yes, you already understood everything. Today we were talking not about a good product, but about embodied audiophile's dreams and thoughts.

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    In addition, if someone says that dreams and thoughts are priceless, then it will be wrong. The price tag in our case is available and it, of course, is also impressive. You can order the M5 model on the official website firaudio.com for $ 2799. Of course, these in-ear monitors are not for everyone, but for the most notorious fans of perfect sound. To them I without the slightest hesitation recommend making every effort, but to purchase these CIEM.



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  2. mvvRAZ
    Perfectly balanced, as all things should be
    Written by mvvRAZ
    Published Aug 4, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Top notch coherency
    Best treble I've heard on an IEM
    Neutral done right
    Most generally speaking - everything about it
    Cons - FiRCon can be an issue if you have a lot of aftermarket cables
    Distribution network in early stages
    I generally have a safe approach to buying audio gear - I mainly go for well known brands and models that have been around for some time, that have been reviewed extensively, with their issues, strengths and weaknesses identified. The first time I took a leap of faith was on FiR as I have been speaking to Bogdan Belonozhko for a while and he's given me a lot of confidence in their brand. Boy am I glad that I did though.

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    Anyways, a couple of days ago I received the FiR Audio M5, a TOTL tri-brid IEM by Bogdan Belonozhko himself. FiR is a relatively new entrant in the market, and so far they've mostly been known for the Headphone Vac as well as a number of IEM maintenance and diagnostic tools. Well, that's about to change very quickly.

    They've been working on a lineup of tubeless IEMs and CIEMs (yes, you read that right - FiR actually makes tubeless customs) - the customs have been around for some time now, but the final version of the universals is now entering the market. They're using a completely new connector, called the FiRCon (or RCX if I'm not mistaken), which promises up to 5000 inserts compared to the current industry standard of about 1000 for MMCX and 2pin. They're also using thicker shells of about 1.1-1.2mm which significantly improves the durability of the customs. Most of these changes are geared towards the pro market, but I'm sure audiophiles would be able to appreciate that as well. FiR also has a lot of confidence in their product and offers a 3 year standard warranty on all their FiRCon products - almost every other company I've come across offers either 1 or 2 years depending on the region you're in.

    Enough about the company and onto their flagship - the M5. It uses a DD for the lows, 2 BAs for the mids, and another one BA + an Estat for the highs. A relatively safe choice in terms of driver choice, nothing too unusual or surprising there.

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    I got an early adopter packaging, so just a box, a cable and the IEMs - I can't say what the final packaging will be like. The cable is an 8 wire SPC, excellent build quality, very flexible and durable, no complaints regarding the microphonics either - generally speaking one of the better stock cables I've received with an IEM - very similar to the 64 Noir upgraded cable if you've seen that one. The IEMs have a black aluminium body, and a rose gold faceplate with the FiR logo on one side, and "M5" on the other. When I saw the IEMs on a photo pre-purchase they seemed a bit too plain for my liking, but in person they look absolutely lovely, and look exceptional once worn - two little jewels. Can't comment on the durability just yet as I have luckily not dropped them, but I doubt there will be issues in that department. The connectors also feel absolutely amazing compared to 2pin and MMCX, with a much more solid insertion, no rotations, no bent pins on the cables or any of that usual trouble. The only trouble is that most aftermarket cable manufacturers don't stock FiRCon just yet but hopefully that'll change soon.

    Describing the sound of these is pretty tricky - I listened to them extensively the past 4 days and only today did I find the words to describe it adequately. "Perfectly balanced as all things should be" are the words that came to mind, because of the absolutely exceptional coherency. Too often I see tribrids that emphasise either the lows or the highs (or both), leaving a rather unnecessary V shape, where the mids are heavily recessed. I personally dislike that tuning, and I dislike it even more when you have DD bass and Estat highs which are both extremely dominant, leaving you with these vocals that are barely audible in the background. The other trend that I'm not a huge fan of is co-flagships, or multiple TOTLs - for example the U18t and the Noir from 64 - they feel like they are built to complement each other, and to be able to fully cover my rather large number of genres, I'd need to have both. EDM on the U18t is a big no-go, jazz on the Noir just loses some of that harshness and charm. I'm extremely happy to say that the M5 is 1) largely neutral, and extremely coherent and 2) I feel like it was made to be a single TOTL, able to perform anything you throw at it. At least it sounded spectacular with all of my genres and test tracks.

    The lows: the bass in the M5 is an extremely pronounced quality over quantity - just the way I like it. Tuning a dynamic driver is rather risky because you can end up with extremely heavy bass that becomes the only noticeable element of an IEM (CA Polaris II I'm looking at you). FiR have used the dynamic driver for texture, detail and definition of the lows, while keeping the quantity appropriate to the rest of the IEM, without overemphasising it or completely omitting it.

    Lower mids: the lower mids are very organic and natural, and I feel like the dynamic driver is helping there too - they have a certain dynamism - male vocals sound really intimate and realistic.

    Upper mids: this is one of the strongest points of the M5. Female vocals sound absolutely ****ing exceptional. they are gentle, they are intimate, they take centre stage when they need to and produce an absolutely euphoric experience. They remind me of the Empire EVR, which to this day has the most beautiful female vocals I've heard.

    The highs: hands down best highs I've heard in an IEM. They have that Andromeda sparkle, they have the detail and definition on top of that and they can get sharp and almost painful when you really push them. If you are a treble head like me, this will send you straight in a coma. Violins sound like they've come from a completely different dimension - I'd say the upper mids are the best part of this IEM if it wasn't for the absolutely outstanding treble. You can really feel that the estat is working overtime to deliver such an outstanding result. I've also become heavily addicted to the highs of the M5, and find myself missing them in almost every other IEM I listen to.

    Soundstage: the M5 places you in the middle of the stage - you can hear the vocals dead in front of you, instruments left, right and behind you. This is quite heavily contrasted to the U18t, which places you in the crowd, a few rows back too. It is most certainly an intimate soundstage - extreme detail in instrument placement, without reaching extremely far out. The soundstage is very important to me and while I would probably prefer for it to be a bit larger to give me that feeling of being a bit further away from the music, I can't say I have been left dissatisfied.

    Instrumental separation: Some of the best I've heard, only second to the U18t. Each instrument is an entity of its own, carefully placed and executed.

    Detail: This is the part that left me most baffled. I've come to associate tubeless with more smoothness, less detail. 64's Noir for example is the smoothest IEM I've heard, but it's detail retrieval is okay at best. The U18t is extremely harsh and surgical, with insane detail retrieval - try to listen to some pop on it though and just give up 20 seconds in. The M5 is able to pick out the smallest details in a track, and reveal them to you with pure precision.

    The best all-rounder I've heard: While many IEMs have a clear preference for certain genres, recordings, sources or cables, the M5 has done an absolutely amazing job at playing anything I've asked it to. Going back to the 64 comparison: the U18t has a clear preference for acoustic instruments, live recordings, loads of detail and huge soundstage - I drool every time I listen to any of my jazz playlists on it. The Noir is pure insanity for EDM, pop or any of the more electronic genres and beats. The M5 comfortably competes with both the U18t and the Noir in the areas where each of them really shines. To say it outperforms them would be an exaggeration, but it is certainly up there, at an extremely comparable level. When it comes to the genres where the U18t and the Noir aren't as strong, the M5 is leaps and bounds ahead in a category of its own.

    Sound conclusions: The M5 is heavily neutral, with a touch of smoothness, and exceptional highs - though I wouldn't go as far as calling it bright. Insane detail retrieval and an intimate soundstage take it to an overall level of performance I'm yet to hear from another IEM.

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