FLC Technology is one of the earliest companies in China to explore the hybrid balance armature...

FLC Technology FLC 8S

Average User Rating:
4.52632/5,
  • FLC Technology is one of the earliest companies in China to explore the hybrid balance armature and dynamic driver technology. In 2011, it was the first company to launch a hybrid CIEM. The FLC 8 was the first universial hybrid balance armature and dynamic earphones by FLC technology. Due to FLC Technology's extensive experience in the hybrid technology, the FLC 8S features excellent crossover technology which creates a coherent sound between the dual balanced armature drivers and the dynamic drivers.

    FLC 8S recongizes that there is no one size fit all sound signature for all users. Hence, it is designed to be highly tuneable so that users can tune it according to their sound preference. While tuneable earphones are not new in the market, the FLC 8S represents the pinnacle of this technology as it allows for 36 variations of sound unlike most tuneable earphones which allows only 3 different sound signatures at most.

    The new FLC 8S comes with improved build quality and comes with braided cables as compared to the original FLC 8.

    Specifications:
    Drivers: 8.6mm dynamic driver + dual balanced armatures
    Rated Impedance: 11Ω
    Sensitivity: 93 dB/mW
    Frequency response: 20Hz- 20KHz
    Plug: 3.5mm gold-plated smartphone case friendly L-plug
    Cable: 1.30m TPU detachable cable with 2-pin connectors

    Accessories:
    8 pairs of silicon tips
    1 metal storage case
    1 pair tweezers (for swapping tuning plugs)
    3 pair low frequency tuning plugs
    3 pairs ultra-low tuning plugs
    4 pairs tuning nozzles
    1 metal tuning accessories case

Recent User Reviews

  1. Ambient Lights
    5.0/5,
    "The Most Universal of All Universal IEMs"
    Pros - Clarity and naturalness far beyond its suggested price. Coherent and immensely spacious. Supremely precise imaging. A must try with Grey/Grey/None configuration and the Comply TX400. Exceptional comfort. 36 different tuning options to change the sound (and even more if you get creative!) Hear what you want to hear, listen what you haven't heard and even more with limitless expanse.
    Cons - The stock silicone tips are really bad for tonality. The 7N braided copper cable is microphonic (even with the IEM being literally designed for over-ear use?) and produces audible cable noise with any movement unless higher volumes are used. Very minor flaws as both can be easily solved.
    ____________________________________________________



    Background

    A current university student on a limited budget here. Subsequently, I don't have nearly as many frame of references as others have (but I do check out the nearby audio store and try out the common open headphones!) I'm not a super enthusiast (yet?) about audio, but music means a lot to me. My files are either lossless/uncompressed from Bandcamp or wherever I can get the source version from. I get some of the basics of high fidelity audio such as sound signatures, presence range, etc. but I'm definitely not a sound engineer. Music is subjective - hence, don't expect a superlative impartiality of sound explanations from me!



    From reading countless comparisons and reviews across the wide internet, I ended up with the choice of three in-ear monitors that I believe matches my sound preference: neutral (negotiable, the upcoming aspects are not) with the greatest emphasis on clarity and spaciousness. The three IEMs I had rounded down to after an extensive multi-language search were the Etymotic ER4SR ($349, single balanced armature, known to be the benchmark of IEMs for a good reason), the Audeze iSine 10 ($399, planar magnetic IEM) and the much, much lesser known FLC 8S ($350, 1 dynamic driver + 2 balanced armatures hybrid). Though I haven't tried all three (the perks of living in Oceania... this is not one of them), both the ER4SR and iSine 10 had quirks that became problems for me: the former for deep insertion and fit (I bike as a primary means of transport and the ER4SR would stick out against my goggles; anything but foam tips are not comfortable enough for me to listen for long periods of time) and the latter for having no isolation, supporting Apple devices only while having an off-tone, massive peak between the 1-2kHz range (the cipher cable they later developed to address this does not match my needs for an IEM). Being a university student studying full-time, I did not have the opportunity or money to splash around to try all these excellent and critically acclaimed in-ear monitors. This was a - very - luxury purchase I have made for myself, and I had absolutely no room for regretting a purchase. Ultimately, after reading many reviews of the FLC 8S, all the goods and bads (one saying that the iSine 10 was so much better (ehh no) than the FLC 8S - in hindsight, that person probably didn't tune their FLC 8S very well) I decided on purchasing the FLC 8S knowing that it would be the least regrettable purchase decision out of the three considering its advertised flexibility of 36 different tuning configurations. And so I brought these on sale for ~US $300 from Lend Me Ur Ears (great customer service, by the way) and eagerly awaited and withheld myself from excitement to try them at the right time and place of mind.





    Disclaimer?
    I brought the FLC 8S with my own money and felt the need (without anyone's suggestion) to share my experiences with these high fidelity in-ear monitors.





    FLC 8S.jpg



    Misleading first impressions


    TD;LR
    If you experience sibilance and/or hiss with the FLC 8S, throw away the stock silicone tips and use memory foam tips with a good seal in your ear.



    So I prepared mentally and physically to listen for the first time. After hearing so many amazing reviews about this IEM, I was completely ready to be blown away. Putting on the smallest silicone tips (so I could get the deepest and clearest fit into my ear), I set down for the revelation of awesomeness.


    I was blown away by how horrible the stock tips with Grey/Grey/Gold was and how sibilant they sounded.


    Literally, I played a track with NO vocals and I heard hissing (which disappeared when I pause the track; not present in any other IEM I have, so I'm 100% sure it's not equipment) coming from the treble. Changed to another track. Still hissing. A vocal track. The vocals sounded like a ROBOT trying to mimic a snake rattle. They weren't even pronouncing 'S' sounds! Everything was hissing and sibilant so badly, I thought of returning the IEM for repair 10 minutes after I opened the box. They sounded worse than broken. But then I had a revelation of my own. I was going to change to foam tips anyway, but it struck me that the smallest stock silicone tips was the issue (I might miss the "best treble extension" stated by FLC... but with that sound. No. Not at all).

    So I changed the tips to Comply TX400 (the one with the waxguard filter). It was as if an entirely new experience of the FLC 8S opened up to me. And they did. They stopped sounding sibilant and broken. Literally, all the hissing disappeared from any of my tracks. No exaggeration, it was completely gone. And its not like any other variable could have caused it either, the hissing was so bad that I removed the stock tips after ~2 minutes of rapid-fire listening of many of my tracks. Suddenly, they sounded natural, incredible and normal (the incredible part is helped a lot by the TX400, great pairing to balance the sound of the FLC 8S) like what you would've expect from any non run-overed high-end IEM.

    As such, I recommend that you take hold of all the stock silicone tips that came with the FLC 8S,
    and throw them away.


    (At least don't use them and look for alternatives, ESPECIALLY IF you are hearing unnatural tin robot sounds/sharp edges with them).



    Second (unabridged) thoughts on the stock silicone tips

    After seeing others praise the stock tips, I decided to give them another try. This time I used the medium size and made sure to get the best seal as I could (doesn't help that these do not adjust to the shape of your ear canal like the Complys - felt like it could uncomfortably pop out of my ears at any moment). Tried with the track that I heard unlistenably terrible hissing and sibilance (Krys Talk - Fly Away <Mendum Remix>) and the awful hissing was mostly not there any more. Still, the treble stands out too much and reduces the amazing coherency and timbre of the FLC 8S. Sibilance ("WEU'LL SSHAYSSZEEEE") was still there. On other tracks, the brilliant no nozzle filters configuration started to sound shouty, unnatural and off-tone with the medium stock silicone tips. I did hear marginally more treble detail with the silicone tips, but I'm not sure if you'd really want to hear that with this IEM given that its midrange clarity is absolutely transcendental. I don't think the "most treble extension" silicone tips is a good combination if you want natural clarity from these IEMs. Also they diminish the FLC 8S's awesome detailed subbass and midbass (regardless of your filter configuration) by a lot. This is from someone who doesn't even like bass - it's as if the stock tips absorb the subbass impact or something. Compared to the Complys, the stock tips made the sound somewhat tinny and far too bright - it lacks the fullness and wholeness that the comply gives with the IEM. Swapped back to the Comply TX400, and all became right with the world. The coherency, naturalness and clarity of the FLC 8S with the Comply TX400 is just incredible - a match made in audio heaven.


    TD;LR stock tips changed from discard/10 to 3/10 listenable with proper fit and improving bass response through red thumbstack. Stock tips has poor bass response, making the IEM sound tinny. Comply TX400 with good ear seal reveals the capability of the IEM's tremulous subbass while evening out the sound on top of making it feel like its not even on your ear - highly recommended. With it, I can not imagine a better pairing in terms of naturalness and effortless music. If you think that the FLC 8S is too bright or sibilant, then you owe it to yourself to try them with the Comply TX400 - an incredibly even and harmonious tone awaits you with this pairing.



    FLC 8S Hybrid Headset.jpg



    Quirks

    The FLC 8S comes with an earguide hook that you can place on the cables. At first, I struggled for a good 10 minutes to even put the thing on until I realized that the ear hooks actually had "L" and "R" imprinted on them. Trying to put it on the first few times was rather discordant, but now that I know how to properly put them on it only takes me about ~5 seconds (make sure that the ear hooks cover the entire part of the cable; put the ear hook over your ear first, then guide the IEMs into your ear). The ear hooks were very soft and comfortable for me, most of the time I forget that it's (along with the super lightweight IEM) even hanging on my ear (if not for the incredible sound that these produce, that is).

    The braided pure copper cable produces a lot of cable noise and should be replaced if you are intending to breathe and/or allow your heart to beat while listening to the FLC 8S. Well, its not actually that bad, but given that the IEM is designed to fit over-ear and yet still produces any microphonics at all (just from moving your head slightly, but the cable noise from this can be unnoticeable by increasing the volume), it definitely is a weakness to consider. I wear my IEMs with the cable over my back so that I never touch the cables and it stays more stable while moving (and also reduced microphonics to zero in my other cable-noisy IEM), but the FLC 8S cable still produced very little-but-still-there microphonics when I did this. For most people, the microphonics will be gone once you increase the volume, but if not, you should strongly consider setting aside the stock cable and seek an alternative, (non-cheap because the FLC 8S deserves great cables!) non-microphonic cable especially if you plan to move around a lot with this IEM. Newer FLC 8S comes with a revised pure copper cable (its more deep teal in color) with a proper non-cheap looking cinch and without the memory wire. I don't notice any stiffness and discomfort with this cable, I was able to sleep listening to the IEMs and the cable got out of the way without ricocheting and hitting me in the face like the other stiff cables I've tried, so I'd say the stock cable, sans microphonics, is actually quite nice.

    They are also 1.2m long (for both the 7N pure copper stock cable and the 7N pure silver upgrade cable), which considering that includes the over-ear design may be too short for some. Understandably, these styles of cables are rather expensive (just look at how much Ultimate Ears sells their pure silver cable for... I'll let you guess. Over 60% the price of the FLC 8S... yikes) so I wouldn't consider it a flaw as you can use your own cables either way.

    The socket is TF10 and is 0.74mm, so cables apart from FLC's own pure silver upgrade cable could potentially make the earpiece socket larger and slightly loose. They actually advise not changing cables often for the IEM's longevity, so these quirks should definitely be taken into an account if upgrading the cable is to be an attractive option for you.


    I'm trying to blow holes at the FLC 8S's possible weaknesses at this point. Aside from the tiny thumbstack and cylinder filters making it potentially difficult to change on the go (I sort of got used to it and can change more often without the filters going and flying everywhere... I think. Besides, considering how small these IEMs are it's really a given physical limitation) there really isn't much else you could criticise about the FLC 8S. Especially the sound. You can't make a tuneable IEM without being at least very good in all parts of the audio spectrum after all - and for that, they have done super well. I hadn't realised until now that 'You're Not Alone' by CMA actually had cymbals behind the empowering bass. It sits far behind it and is a bit subtle. With sibilance I probably would've just thought that the bass was distorted (its not, the artist's tracks are amazing and well-balanced) because I wouldn't have been able to distinguish between the overpowering bass and the subtle treble. I have no problems doing that with this IEM! The FLC 8S does a superb job of covering the general flaws of IEMs, and I think its very unlikely that its physical aspects would cause issues for anyone. I wouldn't even consider their custom shelled version because the universal one already fits so well for me. But that is an option if one finds the FLC 8S to not fit as well (not likely from what I can tell out of the countless impressions I've read, which is a very, very good thing for a universal IEM).


    Subjectivity to consider

    Sound quality is influenced by an astronomical number of factors - the genre of music you like the most (which generally determines the sound signature/IEM you would prefer), the shape of your ear canal, the sources of your music (smartphone versus dedicated amplifier, file quality), the list goes on. All these things could have the potential to affect sound quality drastically (again, dependent on your circumstances) as I've demonstrated with the smallest stock silicone tips and Comply TX400 in my first impressions of the IEM, so your experiences can and probably will vary to mine. I am from a perspective that clarity and spaciousness above all else matters for high-end headphones, and with that said I am rather aversive to bass and its tendency to make tracks feel like a nightclub party (have used a bass reducer equalizer ever since I've started to listen music more attentively, which I now longer do with the FLC 8S because it is no longer needed - the clarity and balance is incredible). Of course, treble standing out is not a good thing (usually destroys the timbre and harmony of the music) so its a very delicate balance for me in the sound that I prefer. The FLC 8S allows me to achieve this balance and change the sound based on what I feel like listening to (upbeat EDM for biking, Ambient for relaxing/studying) which to me makes it understatedly unique compared to every other IEM on the market. Of course there will be more technically proficient IEMs out there (the electrostatic Shure KSE1500 for example), but the FLC 8S's versatility and comfort to my ear makes it the best use-everyday high fidelity IEM I could imagine. Because everyone will invariably have different experiences and perceptions to audio, I would like to speak from my standpoint, particularly the configuration which have led me to praise the FLC 8S so much. You should get a chance to hear these configurations first before modifying your expectations (for better or worse) of this IEM.



    Comply TX400 memory foam with waxguard
    Comfortable and removed all sense of sibilance I heard from my first impression of the FLC 8S. For those who believe that the FLC 8S is on the bright side for an IEM, these will very likely change that perception in offering a more balanced and customizable sound.


    What have blown me away:



    Grey | Grey | No Filter


    Immensely coherent and harmonious sound with stunning resolution, forwardness and clarity of the midrange.



    Red | Clear | No Filter


    Detailed energetic bass response with great clarity. Midbass recessed, but potentially offers a wider space of sound.




    ________________________________________________


    FLC 8S - Filters Capsule.jpg




    The Sound|s| of the FLC 8S


    Filters - Thumbstack [Subbass] | Cylinder [Midbass] | Nozzle [Midrange and Treble]

    Colors, most to least respectively:

    Thumbstacks
    Red
    Black
    Clear

    Cylinders
    Black
    Grey
    Clear

    Nozzles
    Green - Most treble
    Black - Medium mids, second most treble
    Gold - Most mids
    Blue - Deletes treble and reduces midrange

    (I will be calling the black thumbstack filter grey for coherency and color-coordination).

    There is actually a lot more to know and discover about the FLC 8S beyond the claimed 36 configurations design. Changing one filter affects the rest of the frequency response and thus the sound. For example, using a clear clear black configuration will push the frequency peak of the black nozzle filters slightly from ~1.3kHz to somewhere closer to 2kHz (check out the graph measurements at https://www.innerfidelity.com/headphone-measurements for a comparison) compared to any other bass filters combination. This means that changing just one filter can have a larger than expected effect on the entire audio spectrum, particularly the midbass cylinder filters which determines how much the sounds from the balanced armatures are leaked out (and somehow increases midbass significantly while still retaining mids and highs when you go with no filters here, no idea how that works but it does). Basically, the FLC 8S can be VERY complex and advanced if you choose to go the advanced tinkering route (someone in this forum added an acoustic dampening cloth to their cylinder filter - the frequency response changes were rather interesting!). On a particular track that I found had too much treble coming from one side, I literally removed the cylinder filter with my hands from that side, WHILE listening to the IEM, and found that side suddenly becoming more coherent! It should be noted that the general issue of disjointed sound found in other hybrid IEMs is nonexistent with the FLC 8S. The combinations of drivers are exceedingly technically well-tuned that they overlap and blend in sound, creating a natural sounding hybrid IEM that doesn't sound off-balanced, being just as whole and pleasing as single-driver type style IEMs (maybe even moreso with the brilliantly clear, wide midrange of no nozzle filters i.e. what the IEM is wholly capable of in terms of 'soundfullness'). Now, I'm not advocating for mismatching the volume and frequency response of the IEM, but it shows the deep potential and customizability of the FLC 8S. I don't think I would be exaggerating in saying that these are perhaps the most customizable IEMs ever released (at least for the time being... new technology are so limited and expensive!)


    Since I don't have frequency response graphs to show (the other reviews have already done an excellent job on this), I'll just (not word for word) quote FLC's founder Forrest Wei on precisely what the filters do.


    "Without the ULF plug [Thumbstack], the earphone will be like an earbud; you could wear it to run.
    Without the LF plug [Cylinder], the midbass is about 2 dB higher.
    Without the nozzle, the mids will be higher around 2K Hz - vocal is more forward, the treble will lessen at around 4~5K Hz, sibilance will be less, but the treble would not be so solid and bright."


    You could probably get it from his explanation on what the functions of the filters are. The purpose of the filters is to control how much specific sound frequencies are dissipated from the IEM before reaching the nozzle and into your ear. What this means is that there are actually even more (!!!) ways to tune the sound than the stated 36 configurations if you get creative with the no filter combinations.


    No Thumbstack filter
    This covers the area where the dynamic driver rests. It removes (maybe all) low-end subbass from the IEM and make it sound as if they sit outside your ear, even with a perfect seal. From what I've noticed, this makes energetic EDM tracks or anything reliant on bass sound bad as if the entire low-end frequencies are missing. This may be a good thing on some poorly mastered tracks or orchestral music, but for cohesiveness of sound, using at least the clear thumbstack filter for reduced bass (instead of removing bass entirely) would be recommended for most styles of music.


    No Cylinder filter
    This covers the area where the two balanced armature drivers are situated. According to Forrest Wei, this option is the most bassy option of all, offering 2 dB more bass than the max bass filter (black cylinder). This is accurate in my experience, as the moment I remove this filter while listening I was greeted with bass energy that wasn't there before. As such, these probably controls the presence of the higher end frequencies, and having no filter here at all noticeably reduced the clarity of orchestral tracks, particularly the piano where it became harder to discern the particular notes as you increase the midbass. To reiterate: removing the cylinder filter and using none will actually increase bass presence and energy. The clear filter here actually prevents the high end frequencies from going out of the IEM, which makes the various interactions with the filters rather interesting - you could come up with some unexpected results by changing this filter in combination with the others!


    No Nozzle filter
    This is the final filter before the sound reaches your ear, and arguably its removal makes the FLC 8S shine. Using no nozzle filters as FLC founder Forrest Wei says will make vocals sound forward while simultaneously reducing the treble around 5kHz (which according to the presence range definition you can find in the forums, would make instruments 'more distant and transparent'. I interpreted this as greater clarity and spaciousness on the FLC 8S). With no nozzle filters, the IEM becomes somewhat mid-centric, which would sound unusual if not for the FLC 8S's excellent technical capability. With no nozzle filters in place I was able to pick out minute details that was not present or less noticeable with the black, blue or even gold filters (the green filter was only partially equal with music that extensively utilise/mainly focused on the high ranges above 6kHz). The sound could actually be characterised as an enhanced gold filter experience. Detail resolution expanded when I took off the gold filters and put the Comply TX400 on in its place. While the default configuration of Grey/Grey/Gold filters was great and supremely harmonious, using no nozzle filters made me felt moved - by the sound, and I found myself involuntarily moving to the rhythm with a smile on my face. No nozzle filters definitely deserves to be heard (can't say the same for no thumbstack filters). It makes the midrange sibilance-free and clear with impressive imaging and a great sense of expansiveness.


    I can't say much about the thumbstack and cylinder bass filters as the preferable tuning of these are highly dependent on the music you listen to. Increasing any parts of the bass should eliminate any sibilance (with Comply foam tips plus waxguard) that you might hear on even the most awkwardly mastered tracks. I will say that the subbass of the FLC 8S (with red thumbstack filters) goes very deep. Compared to a V-shaped IEM with more midbass, in the track 'Winter' by Phillip Anderson, the drum parts were seismic (if you have a complete seal with foam tips) and I could feel the specific repercussions of the drum's echoes. With the more midbass V-shaped IEM using the same foam tips, I was not able to feel the same effect, it didn't really came close to reproducing the detailed and powerful subbass of the FLC 8S. With red thumbstack, its pretty strong in the subbass department for sure. Midbass is quality in terms of being detailed, though there isn't as much quantity as there is compared to the subbass (I might not be holistic with this, my last IEM essentially attacks you with midbass) so you might not feel the midbass of the FLC 8S as much as you would feel its subbass. As others have said, low mids are not affected by the tuning components as far as I could hear (i.e. it didn't increase with the configurations I've tried, I guess its an intentional tuning to make the IEM sound more detailed and spacious?) so instruments like violins might be detailed, but not feel as full compared to a midbass elevated IEM (this was with my equipment, I have heard that this aspect improves with dedicated amplifiers so try that out if you have it!). Though I regard the sounds of the no nozzle filters configuration to be the signature highlight of the FLC 8S, the nozzle filters give flavors of sound that could better suit and enhance the music you listen to. Your primary choice of nozzle filter would thus likely be dependent on the frequency ranges that your music tend to produce and emphasise.



    Blue Nozzle
    Matches | Dark, enclosed, bass-heavy


    Listening casually, focusing on other things.


    I tested these out with the stock medium silicone tips (offers the most treble extension according to FLC).

    | Destroys treble response and reduces the midrange considerably, but offers more bass rumble and presence. Good for having music sit in the background. |


    Coming directly from no nozzle filter with the TX400 tips, the blue nozzle sounded immensely muffled in comparison. It sounded so bad initially that I relegated the blue nozzle from the blue container to one of the plastic accessory bags (where I'll likely not touch it ever again). The blue nozzle mimicked the sound of my 5+ years old Apple EarPods quite well (enclosed, filtered, though with incomparably better detail retrieval obviously) so there's that going for it. That sounds way too harsh, because it is (don't actually compare the Apple earbuds to the FLC 8S - the differences exist in parallel dimensions separated by infinity) - its intended to show the MASSIVE difference between the audio clarity of no nozzle filter and the blue nozzle. And I would assume that you're looking at the FLC 8S for its stunning brillance and tendency to make you react passionately to the music. It probably wouldn't be found with the blue nozzle.


    With that said, after listening to various tracks for an extended period of time and getting mentally used to the sound, I did notice that they offer more bass and thump. If you manage to get used to the sound of the blue nozzle, then it will still sound good regardless as the technical prowess and tuning of the FLC 8S is phenomenal. The blue nozzle could be regarded as offering a more lounging friendly sound - if you don't focus and listen attentively, they might be good for relaxed listening or just having music sitting in the background while you do something else (might not work if you have a good seal increasing the sense of bass/going for isolation in loud environments). Though after listening with no nozzle filters, I can't imagine why anyone would want to use the blue nozzles, they don't exactly play to the FLC 8S's strengths. Regardless, its a nice option to have if you want to just relax without feeling moved by the sound of the FLC 8S at the best parts of a song.


    For listening closely and for intending to use these as the primary filter though - if your music selection consists of something along the line of 60% bass, 30% mids and 10% treble (in every song you listen to), then the blue nozzle might sound good in enhancing the bass feel at the expense of everything else. Whether that would be worth it to you, well, you'll just have to try it and find out.


    Who knows, you might enjoy feeling the music more than you do listening to it. If that's the case, the blue nozzle might be of use to you.


    Green Nozzle
    Matches | Airy, not vocal-oriented, clarity necessitated


    Listening to the nimbility and gracefulness of orchestra.


    | Quick and precise treble imaging. High amounts of detail at the high ends, amazing for piano. May produce very noticeable sibilance in vocal tracks depending on the bass filter combination used. |


    With my previous bass-heavy V-shaped IEM (Degauss Labs Noir), orchestral tracks or anything that emphasises the piano sounded... not good. The boomy midbass contoured and muffled everything, reducing the ability to distinguish the notes of the piano, so everything sounded very muddy and 'samey' as far as orchestral tracks go. Experiencing the green nozzles of the FLC 8S have opened a new door for me in music. A good benchmark for audio clarity of piano would be the track 'Blink' by James Maloney. The piano here is VERY quick and absolutely demands precision and clarity in the higher ranges or else the presentation would be very bad. With a V-shaped sound signature, the piano sounded like a mushed blur. Absolutely no detail could be distinguished because it was so blurry. With the FLC 8S's Clear/Clear/Green combination, I could distinguish every piano note and realized that the piano was actually linearly moving up and down in notes rapidly - and I could hear all of those notes without extensive focus. That is the clarity that these nozzles offer. When I changed the clear cylinder midbass filter to the grey one, it became more difficult to discern the individual notes. So if I were to use the green nozzle, I would definitely only stick to the clear cylinder filter to make sure that the treble isn't reduced from the more open port. Any subbass filter should be fine here for the most part - I didn't notice those directly affecting the clarity of the piano as much as the midbass filters.


    A downside of these filters however is the added sibilance and unnaturalness added to vocal tracks. Vocals started to sound like they came out of a cymbals sound mixer instead of an actual human being. 'Chase' in the track Fly Away by Krys Talk/Mendum (the track where I noticed the horrendous sibilance in my inital impression) becomes 'shayse' with the green nozzle. And this was with the Comply TX400 with waxguard, which is known to reduce and harmonise the treble. I can't imagine how bad the sibilance would be with any other tips (actually, I can - refer to my initial impressions with the unnatural silicone treble blaster-err I mean stock silicone tips).


    I also noticed that everything had less sound decay in general, because the treble would just move from one note to another quickly without really letting it fade away naturally (like the sounds coming from the dynamic driver, which sounded more natural). As such, this nozzle is definitely not 'main-use'-able unless your music selection consists mostly of vocaless tracks. Would the green nozzle be worth keeping around for changing? Again, that is up to you and whether you like treble or not. The green nozzle filters does not destroy the spaciousness of the music like the blue filter does (actually it could be seen as enhancing it slightly), but it does destroy any sense of naturalness if your music is particularly vocal heavy. All in all, the green nozzle filter is a nice option for those looking to enhance their piano listening experience. It has the potential to make orchestral imaging astonishingly wonderful.


    Gold Nozzle
    Matches | Smooth, intimate, sibilant recordings


    The fullness of vocals.


    Referred by many as 'liquid vocals', the gold nozzle pushes the emphasis towards the ~2kHz range while reducing treble noticeably around 8kHz (resulting in it eliminating sibilance really well). It helps with the finish of the vocals, making them sound more 'complete' in a sense. The tradeoff is that there can be a lesser sense of space because the vocal is closer to you (though imaging and soundstage is excellent like the other non-blue nozzles), but it's definitely not as enclosed as the blue nozzle.


    This nozzle can help with tonality and naturalness for some because it smoothens out the sound while bringing vocals to the center stage. It offers a slightly more natural decay of sound compared to the black nozzle for example at the expense of treble details. Treble is definitely pushed back with the gold nozzle, so that is something to take into consideration. You won't feel like being surrounded by clouds with this nozzle, but rather you'd feel like you're comfortably on the ground, at the front seat of a live performance. The gold nozzle sets out what it aims to do really well, and should work well with all styles of vocal music.

    In sacrificing some airyness (treble) for a smooth tonality, I can definitely see a lot of people enjoying this nozzle filter.


    Black Nozzle

    Matches | Neutral, most music, forwarded instruments


    No particular emphasis on anything. Easeful reference balancing.


    This nozzle is quite neat (literally). According to innerfidelity measurements, they roughly emphasise the ~1.3kHz and ~9kHz ranges, so they could help with providing a fuller sound at higher ranges (for reference, the green nozzle filters also emphasise these ranges). Actually, comparing the black nozzle and green nozzle frequency response graphs, you could say that the black nozzle filter is the more balanced version of the green nozzle. It is the filter with the second most amount of treble (roughly ~4 dB higher than gold nozzle it looks like) and as such you might notice slight sibilance on a few tracks (increasing midbass helps alleviate this). It can work very well for those looking for a more linear extension and sound. I can't really say much else about this nozzle however, because nothing really stands out in my tracks to me using this. Is that a good or a bad thing? You decide.





    Grey | Grey | None

    Matches | Everything



    Clarity and reference sound comes to life.



    This, to me is the absolute highlight of the FLC 8S's coherent tuning and preeminent midrange. To reiterate on what no nozzle does: "without the nozzle, the mids will be higher around 2K Hz - vocal is more forward, the treble will lessen at around 4~5K Hz". From my listening, some definitions and playing around with a music editing tool and increasing/decreasing those specific ranges, I've found that this gives the most spacious, yet complete sound of all the nozzles. Listening to 'Times Like These' by The Eden Project, the vocals are paramount, spacious and effortlessly clear while the entire track emanated energy that made me feel the need to move along with it. I hadn't realised that the chorus had more than one vocal sound (there's another layer of vocals, who could've guessed with that clear singing!) before listening to it with the FLC 8S. Likewise, the awesome 'Wake Up' sung by the same person sounds incredibly passionate with this configuration - I could hear them breathing in lows and highs (I could differentiate how they breathed for each word they spoke with the no nozzle filter) without any sense of sibilance. It really, really is amazing how clear these are. With experiences like these on a constant basis across all of my music, I knew immediately from early listening that these were absolutely worth the price point (and I would say even more! The pure silver upgrade cable is an option...) - these sound coherent on every genre that I listen to, from classical/orchestral or ambient (which tends to sound blurry and congested when there is too much bass and little midrange - the FLC 8S is revelatory for me here!) to EDM (tune the FLC 8S to lift the bass and hear the pumping adrenaline beat!). These genres of music could not be further apart in terms of sound signature and emphasis - EDM needing midbass and midrange while Ambient needing midrange, treble and reduced bass. With the right sound tuning of the FLC 8S, such as this one (you might find others depending on your equipment!), both sounds amazing without the need for an equalizer or anything similar (unlike the other IEMs I've listened to. Equalizer can't make those excessively exaggerated peaks found in non-neutral, boosted IEMs sound good, believe me I've tried). Using lossless files, this IEM is incredible in evoking the more subtle details of well-mastered tracks. What is yet amazing is that you can still improve the already awe-inspiring sound with some advanced tinkering and better amplifier combos (+ impedance adapter) as well as using an equalizer (though absolutely not needed!). The FLC 8S sounds amazing at low volumes, and even better with a good impedance adapter and source at higher volumes! Still hearing some treble standing out? Remove the cylinder midbass filter from the right ear piece of the FLC 8S and feel the music even more!



    FLC Technology.jpg



    "Clarity" and "legendary variety of sound"

    I previously used the Degauss Labs Noir, a V-shaped hybrid (1 dynamic driver & 1 balanced armature) IEM with a midbass boost. I'll compare the Noir with the FLC 8S back and forth to describe what I mean by clarity and effortlessness, at least from the perspective of a non-super enthusiast. The Noir is by all means a good IEM, excellent for its goal of sounding energetic and impactful, but I do not even doubt for a second in saying that the FLC 8S offers (much) (but-I-wouldn't-say-that-the-Noirs-are-bad) greater clarity and detail retrieval - it's immensely obvious because the less pronounced details stand out and make an impression on you. For example, with the track Quasar by Michael FK you can hear subtle, multiple layers of airy voices throughout the entire track, effortlessly presented with the FLC 8S at medium volume while I have to increase the volume to loud to even hear the layered voices on the Noir. While this is partially due to the characteristic of the Noir in having a V-shaped sound signature with bass boost (the combination generally reduces the ability to pick up subtle details due to a recessed midrange), reducing the bass with an equaliser did not make hearing the details easier. You have to squint and listen closely to hear the details, and even at ear-destroying volumes the Noir does not resolve all the details that FLC 8S does so effortlessly. Swapping back and forth between the IEMs there are so many echoes and sounds that I have never heard before when quickly changing to the FLC 8S, such as the echoes of the speech found in Moonlight by Rameses B. Effortlessness also improves other aspects such as airyness - the airy treble in Porter Robinson's Sea Of Voices is so awesome, easy to listen to and clear! By 'detail' I mean the character of the sound, so for example while the Noir produces much more bass, the bass is just "bass" and sounds like what you'd typically expect. The FLC 8S is able to produce the same amount of bass at a greater level of detail, allowing you to discover new things each time you listen, which makes re-listening to your music fun and exciting. The nuances of tracks presents itself to me clearly and distinctively and does not need me to critically listen so that I may hear them.


    Want to be mind-blown even further? Listen to

    Red | Clear | None


    and feel the clarity of sound!


    It sounds absurd, but I actually feel moved listening to the FLC 8S even without the energetic tuning due to the sheer clarity and detail presented that I have never noticed before. Put simply, the music feels more 'alive' despite not presenting that exciting V-shaped sound that is highly popular among IEMs currently. It's an incredible hallmark of high fidelity audio that makes pursuing music truly rewarding, and the FLC 8S offers this astronomical leap more seen in $1000+ headphones at a $350 price point. It's astonishing what FLC have accomplished as a new company with the 8S - they didn't just make an amazing in-ear monitor that surpasses the typical downfalls and flaws, they made one that could potentially sound like 5 distinct IEMs (and potentially much more if you're crafty) for the price of one, with its own breathtakingly beautiful midrange character. The FLC 8S doesn't just stand out, it shines with the face of a thousand suns, and should be the premier headphone recommendation for those looking to take a flexible and unregrettable step into higher fidelity sound. For some, it could be their last pick for the foreseeable future of driver-based headphones, and in which case I can definitely see why. The FLC 8S is the most versatile headphone out there right now, and its clarity, resolution and uniqueness could be appreciated for decades to come.
    dc655321, Zelda and B9Scrambler like this.
  2. Wiljen
    5.0/5,
    "FLC8s - maybe the best $500 IEM that $300 will buy"
    Pros - great build , filter options for all tastes on top of a great base IEM underneath it., some of the best resolution and imaging I've heard
    Cons - Default cable could be way better, coupling of mid and high filter limits some tuning options and no tuning of lower mids occurs regardless of filter combination.
    I was loaned the FLC8s to audition before purchasing the b400 or LZ A4. I did not cover un-boxing or the accessory kit as I received the product without the box and with filters already mounted. I'd like to thank @Ngoshawk for graciously loaning me the FLC8s to try. I'll admit, I really don't want to return them but will have to buy my own soon.

    Build
    The 8s by FLC is a smaller than average uniquely shaped iem designed for over ear wear. The housing is all plastic which may turn some people off, but seems well enough put together. At first glance, I thought they might be colored aluminum shells due to the fit and finish. The housing feel solid and seams fit well with no obvious gaps or mis-alignments. I saw no weak points in the shell that I would worry about coming apart over time. The fact that 3 different filters fit into these small housings means that any slight misalignment or wobble during production and everything fails to work correctly. Filters themselves are tiny and with these being on loan, I was very weary of potentially losing one. Once attached, they stay solidly in place so no worries during use of the 8s but when changing filters, it can be a challenge for aging eyes and clumsy fingers.
    filters.JPG



    The best news for me was that the 8s arrived with the upgrade cable already in place so I avoided use of the stock cable except to do some sound comparisons as Ngoshawk requested my thoughts on the cables. The stock cable is overly stiff and combined with my glasses was an uncomfortable fit. Were I to purchase the 8s, I would have to buy the upgrade cable as the option to go without glasses or without music is simply not appealing as both seem rather necessary. The upgrade cable still has a bit of memory and isn’t the most pliable cable but does make a vast improvement in comfort for me. Although I am reluctant to attribute any auditory changes to a cable, the silver single crystal cable did seem to make a bit of improvement particularly in the low end. The cables use the 2 pin UE connector type making it a little more difficult to find replacement cables and those who prefer a more supple cable will certainly have to do some looking at aftermarket options.

    Stock Cable
    stockcable.JPG

    Upgrade Cable
    upgradecable.JPG

    Fit and Isolation
    The shape of the 8s combined with its lightweight and smooth surfaces made it very comfortable to wear although the nozzles do not have a forward angle as some other earphones do and may cause some problems with fit for those with small ear canals. For me, they fit well and when paired with symbios tips the seal was good although a bit shallow. With the ports in the earphone itself and the shallow fit, I can only describe the isolation as mediocre. If I had to guess, I’d say somewhere around a -12dB reduction of outside noise.

    Sound

    This is the hardest part of this review by far. The fact is: the 8s sounds like whatever you want it to. The filters really do work, you can tune the 8s to be a bass cannon if that is your thing, or head the other direction and create an absolute treble knife. Most will probably tune the 8s somewhere between those extremes and with 36 possible combinations a lot of middle ground exists. I’ve tried to make notes about the driver characteristics that come through regardless of how you adjust as well as notes on specific filters where they have a noteworthy impact.

    In order to understand the sound options, you have to understand the filters. The inner port on the shell tunes the sub-bass frequencies, the outer port tunes the bass frequencies, and the screw in nozzles control the mid and high frequency response. The filters come packaged in an aluminum tube with a key ring adapter. This is misleading as changing filters on the go is certainly not recommended as the parts are tiny and the operations are tedious. I recommend changing filters only on a large flat surface (preferably light colored where the filters don’t blend in) with good lighting and perhaps a razor blade and set of angled needle nose pliers as the provided tweezers are less than helpful. Using a scalpel blade to get under the edge of the filters and lift is much easier than trying to get enough surface area exposed to use the tweezers. The housing ports are all pressure fit, so pushing the filters in requires precise orientation and gentle pressure. The nozzle filters are larger, screw-in and much easier to work with.
    outerfilter.JPG inner filter.JPG Nozzlefilter.JPG



    The following were things that I noted regarding the 8s regardless of which set of filters were installed. First and foremost, for a hybrid BA/dynamic, the 8s has better coherency than most. Unlike some hybrids, I would be hard pressed to tell you which frequencies were being produced by which driver in the 8s. Extension is great at the top end and good at the bottom. These have no large roll-off at either end of the spectrum. It didn’t appear to me that the lower mids were changed at all by the tuning filters. The upper mids and high frequencies were quite obviously shaped by the nozzle filters but if the lower mids were moved at all it so slight as to be imperceptible to me. Lastly, the level of detail and micro-details were better than expected and would have made me guess this was a more expensive headphone had I not known the price going in. Overall, I would say the 8s retains a slightly bright signature regardless of which filter set you choose.

    Bass
    The low-end is shaped by both the sub-bass filter and the bass filter and I found that I enjoyed the red sub-bass filters but needed to back off the bass filter by one level as the bass got a bit boomy and lost a bit of control when wide open. Stepping back a notch to the black filter did lose a bit of quantity, but gained a lot of quality so it was a trade well made. Overall, the sub-bass extension was better than I thought possible out of a 6.4mm driver and the bass was well rendered unless the wide open (filter less) setting was used. I would have liked to see a bit more bass quantity but not at the expense of quality. If you are a bass-head, this is probably not the earphone for you as it trades quality for quantity when you try and increase the bass in a way that is not pleasing.

    Mids,
    as noted the lower mids are not shaped by any of the filters so you have less options here. The good news is I didn’t hear a pronounced mid-bass hump and any bleed into the lower mids was very minimal. Instrument separation is good and male vocals are lifelike and ever so slightly forward. The upper mids are much more tunable with the filters and my favorite was a slightly bright filter that lifted female vocals a bit and brought a bit of extra air to the top end. I spent quite a bit of time trying the green and black bores, which are either medium mid and most high frequency or medium mid and high respectively. I came to the conclusion that depending on the track, I could continually swap these two filters and never resolve a single filter that I liked best so I settled on the black as a compromise.


    Treble,
    having just said I settled for the medium high frequency filter, I really enjoyed the sparkle and air the green filter brought to the table and with all but the most sibilant of tracks the green filter really did bring more life to the sound signature. For some reason though, I found the green filter a big more fatiguing than the black which dialed it back a notch. I tried to go without a filter as some recommended but found that was extremely fatiguing unless I dialed back the 6kHz and 8kHz by about 6dB.

    Truth be told, none of the mid/high filters were exactly the combination I would have liked and a little EQ combined with the green was my best fit. If using a player that didn’t have EQ, the black was the best compromise.


    Soundstage

    I found the 8s to have a very wide soundstage if not quite as deep as it was wide. Imaging was good with instrument placement easily visualized and movement of singers on stage in live performance well rendered. The 8s is easily one of the best in-ears I have had a chance to audition when considering imaging and I suspect this is one category where the 8s punches well above its weight as I have had the opportunity to audition several other IEMs in this price range and none come close.


    Conclusions
    The FLC8s is one of the best IEMs I have had the pleasure to audition in quite a while. Admittedly, I usually shy from auditioning things too far out of my price range, so I cannot make the direct comparisons to flagship IEMs that I am sure others will. I can say that without any tuning tricks, the 8s is one of the best IEMs I have heard for coherency and performs with a natural ease to its sound that I haven’t seen in this price range before. With the filters, the tuning options open doors to all kinds of signatures. While I would love to see them decouple the mid and high filters to give even more tuning options, I have to say I was not displeased at all with Red, black, Green or red, black, black. Both of those cater to my tastes with good sub-bass, controlled bass, no bleed over into the mids and nice forward upper mids and treble. This takes an already good voice and tailors it nicely to my personal tastes. Give the FLC 8s a try and I’m sure you can find at least one combination of filters that suits your style too. As for me, now I have to find my own pair so I can return these to their owner who is already regretting being without them for 2 weeks while I had them. Thanks again to @Ngoshawk for introducing me to such a great IEM.

    phones.JPG


    Katie88 and ngoshawk like this.
  3. Hisoundfi
    4.5/5,
    "Choose your own adventure... The FLC 8S triple driver hybrid in-ear monitor with tuning filters"
    Pros - Professional fit and sound, Filters designed to shape all frequency ranges (36 different tunings), Nice accessories package
    Cons - Cable is stiff with lots of spring and memory, Changing the low frequency filters is tedious
    20170328_182848.jpg
    At the time this review was written the FLC 8S was listed for sale on Amazon and Musicteck’s website. Here are links for more information and purchase.
     
    https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_nr_p_4_4?me=A453POZ0FLKWP&fst=as%3Aoff&rh=p_4%3AFLC&ie=UTF8&qid=1490650093
     
    https://shop.musicteck.com/products/flc-8s-hybrid-dual-balanced-armature-dynamic-earphones
     
    Introduction
    I’ve been around the headphone scene long enough to have my doubts about companies pushing their “new technology” products. I say this because often times it’s a gimmick to get you to buy something new. “Revolutionary sound damping technology” can be a company’s creative way of saying they put a layer of wool or paper over their drivers to dampen the high frequencies. Don’t be fooled by a lot of the mumbo jumbo. Do your homework and most importantly buy what you think sounds best, and at a price you’re comfortable paying.
     
    When it comes to tuning earphones manufacturers start with a driver and enclosure, then change the amount of air that flows on each side of the driver. That, or they add dampers to control how much of each frequency makes it to the listener’s ear. While I’ve seen many earphones that come with tuning filters I haven’t seen much out there that allows the owner to shape the sound from top to bottom.
     
    Most filters are nozzle replacements that control the upper mid-range and high frequencies. Although that’s an effective and fun product, often time owners come up short of what they consider the most ideal sound for their exact preferences. By the time something goes mainstream we’re often times already thinking about what we want next. This applies to the concept of sound shaping as well.
     
    When I was a young there was very popular literature amongst my childhood peers called “choose your own adventure” books. The decisions you made while reading them determined the pages you would read next. The result was a book whose story changed and depended on what we wanted to choose. The added element of choice made reading them a lot more fun.
     
    About a year ago the FLC brought to market a “choose your own adventure” earphone. Instead of one set of interchangeable nozzle filters, the 8S has three different ports to adjust sound. Many of my fellow Head-Fiers who heard them raved about the product. Although I didn’t have a chance to try them until recently, I trusted the impressions of those who did and kept them on my review radar. The main question that remained for me was just how effective the filter system was in terms of changing each frequency.
     
    When Musicteck contacted me to see if I was interested in reviewing the 8S I jumped on the chance. The main reasons were to see what the hype was all about, and also see if the filter system worked as advertised. If FLC was able to shape the entire spectrum of sound, the next big thing in in-ear monitors is already here. Let’s find out if FLC accomplished this and go over them with a comprehensive review.
     
    Disclaimer
    I was given a free review sample of the FLC 8S in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with FLC. I’d like to personally thank Andrew for the opportunity, and allowing me to share my honest and unbiased opinion with the Head-Fi community.
     
    Review
    20170320_211846.jpg
    The FLC 8S comes in a light brown box with silver accents. Not a lot to say here…
     
    20170320_212015.jpg
    A magnetized tab flips open to reveal the earphones resting in a custom foam inlay. From that point various tabs cleverly open to reveal the accessories. The uniquely designed box leaves owners thinking they’re in for a real treat. If they can package them this clever, the earphones must be fancy too, right?
     
    Specifications and Accessories
    61uU_fOvjHL._SL1392_1024x1024.jpg
    Specification:
    Driver unit: 8.6 mm dynamic drivers+ dual balanced armatures
    Rated Impedance: 11 Ohm
    Sensitivity: 107 dB/mW
    Frequency response: 20Hz- 20KHz
    Plug: 3.5mm gold-plated plug
    Cable: 1.30 mm TPU cable
     
    20170320_212435.jpg
    Accessories:
    1X Pair of FLC 8S earphone
    1X Modular earphone cable with 0.75 mm two pin connection
    8X Pairs of silicon tips (S,M,L)
    1X Metal hard case
    1X Pair tweezers
    1X filter tuning set and metal carrying case (multiple tuning filters with extras)
    1X Airline adapter
    1X ¼ inch adapter
     
    Build and Design
    20170328_182235.jpg
    The 8S housings appear to be made of uniquely shaped high density plastic. The housings seem to be very durable and I don’t see there being any weak points. The shape is set up for an over the ear fit. A rubber filter can be seen on the inner and outer parts of the housings. The first thing I thought when looking at the filters is “wow, these are tiny!” Another filter can be seen screwed into the nozzle. Overall I’m happy with the shape. The FLC 8S comes in two colors, midnight teal and red.
     
    20170328_182716.jpg
    Holding them in my hand, the first thing I notice is that the cable is stiff, almost too stiff. There’s lots of spring and memory. I took a look at the owner’s manual and it states that the cable is specially designed for the FLC 8S, has quality innards and they encourage that owners don’t remove and replace the cable. Because of this I didn’t mess around too much with it. Although the cable has a considerable amount of spring and memory it’s not the worst I’ve seen and the included chin and neck slider helps snug things into place. The angled two pin connection looks like it will help with ergonomics. The 8S has a ninety degree angled plug with a 3.5mm jack. Strain reliefs seem reliable and strong. There is no microphone or remote, but the modular cable makes this a possible upgrade for owners looking to do so.
     
    Ergonomics, Fit & Isolation
    20170328_180916.jpg
    The FLC 8S provides a very good over the ear fit. Once you find the right tip, the earphones can be popped in, looped over the ear and snugged into place with the included chin/neck slider. I could wear the 8S for an extended period of time without needing to readjust the fit. The included tips provide a relatively shallow fit and are a softer silicone material with a wide bore. Tip rolling was relatively easy to do thanks to the fairly standard nozzle size. On a whole, isolation is average and depends on what filter you use. I could hear ambient noises, but they were eliminated once music was playing.

     
    Functionality
    20170328_181646.jpg
    Now to the good stuff…
     
    The 8S filter system works. Yes it works, but I don’t consider it a perfect system.
    31dVV5Iy_nL_1024x1024.jpg
    There are three ports. The inner port of the housing shells tunes the earphones lowest “ultra low” frequencies (sub bass). The outer housing port controls bass tones above the lowest frequencies. There are metal pins that screw into the nozzles that control the mid-range and high frequencies. Although the system works pretty decently, I do wish the three filter tuning was split differently and into thirds (lows, mids, highs). Still, it’s not a big deal because the FLC accomplishes the same thing but in a unique and different way than I’d prefer.
     
    20170328_181906.jpg
    The filter system is stored in a blue metal canister that attaches to a key ring. Although I can see some people taking the filter system with them by attaching it to their keys, I don’t consider this filter system ultra portable, and definitely not something you can switch out on the go.
     
    To change the filters I strongly suggest you change them on a counter, under good lighting, take your time and be very careful. The biggest gripe I have about the FLC 8S is that the lower frequency filters that attach to the housings are TINY and tedious to change. You can easily lose (or break) these filters if you aren’t careful. Because of this, the 8S comes with one extra of each of the lower frequency filters (in a ziplock bag). Although the 8S comes with a pair of tweezers to help with the process of changing the filters, I didn’t find it very useful. I would suggest you keep a little extra slack on your fingernails and carefully use them to pry and place the filters how and where you want.
     
    The lower frequency filters are made of rubber and appear to have damping materials on the inner parts of them. The filters are pressed into the corresponding holes and are securely held in place with pressure placed upon the rubber tubes from the diameter of the holes of the housings. These filters control the amount of porting to the dynamic driver, altering the earphones’ bass response.
     
    The midrange and treble are adjusted by unscrewing and screwing various metal pins into the 8S housings. I really enjoyed using these filters. They were very easy to switch out. Moving forward, I hope FLC incorporates this threaded option to the other frequencies it will be an improvement.
     
    With all this said, the beauty of the FLC 8S is that it does exactly what it says it does. I can shape the sound to be ideal. After weeks of trial, error and comparisons I’ve found my favorite filter system. Let’s discuss this more in the sound portion of the review.
     
    Don't take just my word for it. Forrest, the man who invented these earphones has made a video describing the incredible technology these things have. Here it is:
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Source Matching
    20170326_235516.jpg
    The 8S comes in at 11 Ohms and 107dB of sensitivity. That is pretty sensitive and doesn’t require more than a phone or portable DAP in low gain. Although they will work with desktop gear, I didn’t get any noticeable benefit from added amplification. If you want to improve the sound of these earphones beyond the tuning filters, focus on using higher quality recordings and increased bit rate music files.
     
    The 8S sounded awesome with my LG V20 and iFi micro iDSD. Honestly, the 8S works with all of my portable sources. If something sounded like it could use something, it was a matter of changing filters to accomplish what I was looking for.
     
    Sound Review
    20170328_182957.jpg
    Because there are 36 different tuning options I can’t go over each one without writing a book about them. Instead I’ll share my experience with them and what I found to be my favorite filter combination.
     
    20170324_140426.jpg
    Putting into considerations the multiple tuning configurations, FLC has taken out some of the leg work by listing some recommended filter combos in the owner’s manual. They’ve also nailed it in terms of describing each of the filter combinations. I honestly couldn’t describe it any better than they have. You can try to come up with a better filter combination than what FLC recommends, but after trying just about every filter combination I came to the conclusion that FLC has identified and highlighted the best ones of the bunch.
     
    Switching the “ultra low” and “bass” filters is tedious. Here’s a tip, go with the recommended filter combos first. Once you’ve done this you will have a feel for what each filter offers, then be able to tweak it to your preference if you need to. If you don’t have the hands and coordination of a surgeon, you’ll be better off changing the lower frequency filters as little as possible. At this point I’m just glad I haven’t lost any yet.
     
    I got flustered changing the filters and putting the unused filters back in the carrying case, at which point I decided to find the combination I like best and haven’t looked back. The “balanced” combination is my favorite, and offers a very even tuning from top to bottom.
     
    The good news is that once you find your favorite filter combination, these are some of the best sounding hybrid in ear monitors I’ve heard. There is enough variance in the sound filters to say I’m confident just about everyone will come up with something they find ideal (or very, very close). If your preference changes a bit over time, there is a sound tweaking tool kit waiting for you.
     
    The FLC 8S covers every frequency from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. Although the mid/high frequency filters aren’t ideal tools for tweaking each sound one by one, you can use various filter combinations in conjunction with them to make it work. Yes, FLC has given me the power to shape sound from top to bottom, and that’s awesome! To add to this, the separation of sounds is great. Detail is top of the line, and extension is great in both directions.
     
    Comparison to the LZ-A4 ($199 USD on many sites)
    The FLC 8S has a direct competitor and it’s the LZ-A4. The A4 came after the 8S and made some interesting tweaks. It’s a three way hybrid (just like the 8S) and comes with tuning filters that adjust the lower, middle and higher frequencies.
     
    Comparing the two, LZ has done some things that trumps the 8S. The housing shape promotes both and under and over the ear fit and the cable is much more manageable and easy to use. LZ has incorporated a MMCX connection as compared to the two pin connection of the 8S (you pick which one you like more). A big plus for the LZ-A4 is that the tuning system is much easier to use than the FLC 8S. I am more apt to changing the filters on the go. Build quality on both is about the same.
     
    With all that said you may be wondering why people would still consider the 8S. I personally feel that the 8S justifies its asking price over the A4 in a few ways including where it matters most, SOUND. The A4 sounds great, but the 8S gives me more control of the frequency response. The filters (although a PITA to use) are more precise, like precision tools used to perfect the sound to my liking. Simply put, when it comes to sound I can dial it in better with the 8S as compared to the A4. Also, the entire package of the 8S from materials and design to accessories is more professional and less generic than the A4. The A4 may be more fun and easy to use, but the 8S has superior fidelity.
     
    With the A4 I can adjust the bass three ways. With the 8S I can adjust it nine ways. For the most part the bass of the A4 lingers and decays slower than the 8S (with preferred filter combos). Compared to my ideal filter combination with the 8S, the A4 bass is a bit more sluggish in comparison. After my ears adjust to the 8S tuning, the sound is more natural and with more air between instruments and vocals. When my ears adjust to the A4 it seems to have more musicality and a more consumer friendly tuning. You won’t go wrong with either, but if maximizing fidelity is most important to you, I strongly suggest the 8S.
     
    Conclusion
    The tuning filters of the 8S are not a gimmick, they’re the real deal and do exactly what they say they can. I can achieve just about any sound signature I want with them, and that’s awesome! At this time I can’t think of another product that gives the owner the ability to adjust and fine tune the sound at this level (at any price). The 8S has a professional fit and premium package of accessories. These will work as a reference monitor for professional musicians, as a earphone for audiophiles who want to maximize their music experience, and for casual music listeners who want to take their listening experience to the next level. They are a design (and price) that caters and appeals to several different markets.
     
    There are some things that could be more ideal. The bass tuning filters are tiny and it’s tedious to change them. The cable is stiff and has a lot of spring and memory. The good news is that once you’ve found the right filter combination and put them on, both of these things become a non-issue. The fact that I can take the 8S and make the earphone sound exactly how I want it to, I can overlook these two things. At the end of the day it’s all about sound for me. The 8S not only delivers high quality sound, it does it with an ideal tuning for my preference.
     
    When rating a product I have to take all criteria into account (including price). The FLC 8S gets four and half stars for build and design, four and a half stars for ergonomics, three and a half stars for functionality (springy cable and changing filters is a pain), and FIVE BIG STARS for sound. They are the current king when it comes to shaping sound.
     
    20170328_182848.jpg
    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
    Katie88, tarhana, meringo and 9 others like this.
  4. FUYU
    4.5/5,
    "Triple Hybrid done right! - The FLC8s"
    Pros - Incredible imaging; clarity and resolution; Tuning options
    Cons - That cable; small tuning filters
    IMG_20161114_143133.jpg

    Over the course of this year, I have noticed that my enthusiasm about buying new gear has become rather stagnant. Ever since I started my personal audio-journey in 2014 and many listening sessions later, nothing excites my now veteran ears anymore. To my surprise came FORREST and renewed my childish side with their announcement of the FLC8s. I have been following the FLC8 Thread for quite some time now. And while the FLC8s are available since November 2015, I never pulled the trigger. Until now...

    Enter FLC8s by FORREST.

    Disclaimer: I bought these on Shenzhen Audio for 269$. I'm not affiliated with FORREST or Shenzhen Audio in any shape or form.

    About me:
    My name is Noel aka. FUYU, I'm 19 years old and an avid lover for everything technical.
    While everything is subjective, I like to explain in more rational enclosure with graphs and technical prowess. I care about facts and only facts, meaning no fancy 300$ cables and value by price-to performance.

    Specifications:


    • Type: Hybrid dual BA + 8.6mm Dynamic Driver
    • Frequency Range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
    • Impedance: 11 ohm
    • Sensitivity: 117 dB @ 1kHz 1mW
    • Cable: 1.2m 4 core single twisted copper (replaceable)
    • Jack: 3.5mm gold plated, straight jack
    • Weight: Approx 14g with tips in place
    • IEM Shell: Hi-gloss strengthened plastic


    Accessories:


    IMG_20161114_141112.jpg IMG_20161114_141236.jpg

    IMG_20161114_142133.jpg IMG_20161114_152811.jpg


    The FLC8s comes in a rather large box for an IEM. Don't be fooled however! This is not due to the IEM itself, but the quite stellar set of equipment and its very unique presentation. Using a folding mechanism reveals two compartments, both protected in thick blue coloured foam. The first layer contains the IEM, while the second layer retains the carrying case and filters with included tweezers. A+ FORREST!

    The included metal carrying case, while not so transportable, will protect your FLC8s or IEM of choice against all kinds of hazards. That thing is literally undestroyable. Reminds me of those old Nokia Cellphones back in the day...

    Opening up the carrying case reveals an airline adapter, a 3.5mm to 5.3mm adapter, a cleaning tool coupled with some tips. Everything you need.

    The filter case is likewise solidly built and comprises a capsule with screw on top, and inside is a mould which has enough room to house 3 pairs of tuning bores, and 2 pairs of each of the ULF and LF tuning plugs.

    Build and Design:


    IMG_20161114_141945.jpg


    The FLC8S is made in a high gloss plastic shell, and at first glance you'd think it was made of polished coloured aluminium. Each earpiece is very ergonomic – designed to fit the contours of the ears, without feeling heavy or having sharp edges. The two piece plastic shell looks very sophisticated, coming in either blue or red colour.

    Dimensions are on the moderate side with 18mm x 10mm x 18mm. The body is S-shaped, and the nozzle is perpendicular to the main body. I didn't encounter any major issues with fit, but I can envision it not being ideal for everybody's ear-type. Although it is a vented design (replaceable nonetheless), Isolation is actually above average for most In-Ear designs. Commuting is very acceptable with some adjustment to your listening volume.

    The biggest shortcoming of the FLC8s is the included cable. While it has lost the big 7,5cm chunk of memory wire in newer revisions, it is still rather unruly and tangles a lot. Furthermore it has in probable amounts of microphonics, making it unsuited for heavy-duty activity.

    Luckily the FLC8s features a very stable 2-pin connection. The sockets are raised, with the cable plugs fitting snugly over the top for added strength. The FLC8s uses the UE standard.

    Sound-Analysis:

    Filters - Usability and general Impressions:

    The filters are divided in to three brackets:

    • ULF - Ultra-Low-Frequency - Sub-Bass
    • LF - Low-Frequency - Mid-Bass
    • MF/HF - Mid and High Frequency

    The experience which defined my time with the FLC8s. I love tinkering with things, but my fingers are pretty large (I can easily palm a Size 7 Basketball). The MF/HF filters are easy to replace by unscrewing them from the nozzle. However, inserting and removing the ULF/LF filters was frustrating and took lots of fiddling and patience. I even lost a black LF filter to the carpet - beware!


    IMG_20161114_152913.jpg


    (For some proper measurements please refer to Brooko's review here)

    General observations:

    • Clean sounding with lots of micro-detail
    • Imaging is precise and with good airiness
    • Coherence is fantastic even with Red-Black filters in place
    • No glaring sonic weakness
    • Lower midrange is not affected by tuning
    • Extension on either side of the spectrum is fantastic

    Don't expect the FLC8s to be the jack-of-all-trades. It has a base signature which is retained over all filter combinations: A bright, but organic sounding In-Ear. It is not going to sound warm or even bassy. Think of it this way:

    The FLC8s is not a tunable IEM with great sound. The FLC8s is a great sounding IEM with tuning options.

    Pairing:

    • 11Ohm and 114dB/mW makes for easy listening out of your smartphone
    • Amping is absolutely not required
    • The FLC8s profits from warmer sources

    Some Filters combinations:


    1655080.jpg


    Red-Clear-Grey:

    The RCG combo is my personal favorite and suits my preferences best with its slight U-Shape signature:

    Bass:

    • Overall very balanced sounding with some slight tilt towards the lower echelons adding some rumble to the mix.
    • Neutral sounding mid-bass. Zero bass-bleed into the midrange.
    • Highly detailed bass response, good texture.

    Mids:

    • Lower Midrange is slightly recessed, thus improves the spacial presentation.
    • Organic sounding with some moderate brightness.
    • Soundstage is moderately sized in all three directions. Appears spherical with center position.

    Treble:

    • 5kHz area is slightly recessed.
    • Moderate rise around 7kHz, giving the FLC8s some sparkle without getting fatiguing

    Red-Grey-Gold:

    The RGG combo was the first combination I have listened to. I don't enjoy the Gold filters all that much. The RGG variant works well with modern genres.

    Bass:

    • Overall more impact with extra energy
    • Focus on Mid-Bass. Plenty of bass. Although Bass-Heads might be left wanting.
    • Retains the same clarity and coherence.

    Mids:

    • More upper-mid focus around 3kHz compared to the Grey filters
    • Forward sounding female-vocals
    • Soundstage appears to be smaller
    • Overall brighter sounding

    Treble:

    • Identical sounding, but balance has shifted.
    • Loses some airiness.
    • Detail retrival is the same.

    The green and blue filters are too extreme for my tastes. The former is too peaky in the 7kHz area , whereas the latter sounds too muted and rolled off. I can safely say that the FLC8s works with almost any genre and excels with classic in particular.

    Comparison with the Trinity Phantom Master 4:

    The Master 4 is overall warmer and more inviting sounding compared to the FLC8s. The FLC8s is less spacious sounding, but more precise in terms of imaging. Bass is much more evident on the PM4, with authority which simply cannot be matched by the FLC8s, albeit at the cost of sounding slighly bloated. Instruments are easier to depict with the FLC8s. Furthermore due to the smaller soundstage, the FLC8s has an easier time diving into the individual aspects of songs and music. The FLC8s has better detail-retrieval overall. The PM4 has more mid-bass and lower midrange emphasis, which makes it warmer and more "fun", whereas the FLC8s is generally more neutral and linear in presentation. My personal preference goes to the FLC8s. The PM4 has too many sonic weaknesses compared to the FLC8s, in particular in the upper-midrange to treble area. FORRESTs offering has better realism, more linearity and more technicality.

    Final Words:

    I really enjoy the FLC8s. For around 300$, you get an all-around package, which will keep you up at night for many months to come. While it is not perfect, the versatility you get for the asking price is well worth it. Flcforrestwei good job! Looking forward to the Celeste.
  5. Brooko
    4.5/5,
    "FLC8S – Versatility to the Extreme"
    Pros - Versatility in tuning, comfort, clarity and resolution, bass quality and speed
    Cons - Microphonic tangly cable, tuning parts very small + easy to break/lose, tweezers are useless, mid-range limited tuning with existing filters/bores
    flc8s33.jpg
    For larger views of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images
     

    INTRODUCTION

     
    The FLC8S was one of those IEMs which burst onto the scene with practically no warning, and before I knew it, had become very popular with a very loyal and vocal fan base. I wanted to try them for the purposes of a review (to see if the tuning did indeed live up to the hype) – but I've had a policy of not soliciting review samples for a while now (preferring vendors to approach me). Some may think this strange, but in my own way I find it easier to be objective if I have no obligation to the manufacturer. Lets just call it one of my quirks.
     
    So my thanks for the opportunity to review the FLC8S go out first and foremost to Forrest Wei for approaching me, and sending the sample, and second to Djscope and nmatheis for both contacting Forrest and recommending me. I really appreciated the chance to hear them.
     
    ABOUT FLC
    Finding a lot of information about the Company is pretty difficult – Google didn't turn up a lot of hits – just a lot of very positive reviews about their products (always a good sign). So for the most part the following is taken from a number of different websites and also some info about Forrest borrowed from Nik's very good review. FLC really is based around Forrest Wei's mastery of tuning and design – and his list of credentials is very impressive. Over the years, he has worked at companies including Ultimate Ears, Harmon and Jabra – and been heavily involved in designing and tuning both universal and custom in-ear monitors. Anyone who's heard the Oriveti Primacy will possibly also recognise some of his tuning in that earphone as well (distinctive 1-2 kHz bump). One of Forrest's goals has been to sell an affordable IEM with enough tuning options to give the user the ultimate choice in the final signature. This goal was realised with the release of the FLC8S I'm reviewing today.
     
    DISCLAIMER
    The FLC8S that I’m reviewing today was provided to me gratis as a review sample. I have made it clear to FLC that I still regard any product they send me as their sole property and available for return any time at their request. But I thank them for the ability to continue use of the FLC8S for follow up comparisons. I do not make any financial gain from this review – it is has been written simply as my way of providing feedback both to the Head-Fi community and also FLC themselves. I do acknowledge that t is extremely unlikely that FLC will ask for the IEM to be returned, so for all intents and purposes it is provided freely.
     
    I have now had the FLC8S since February. The retail price at time of review is USD 360.00 (Lend me UR Ears), or USD 340.00 (Shenzhen Audio)
     
    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. 
    I'm a 49 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (including the FiiO X5ii, X3ii, X7, LP5 Pro and L3, and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). I also use a portable set-up at work – usually either X3ii/X7/L3 > HP, or PC > E17K > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyerdynamic T1, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2 and Adel U6. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
     
    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. I have a specific sensitivity to the 2-3 kHz frequency area (most humans do) but my sensitivity is particularly strong, and I tend to like a relatively flat mid-range with slight elevation in the upper-mids around this area.
     
    I have extensively tested myself (ABX) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively red-book 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 49, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays).
     
    For the purposes of this review - I mainly used the FLC8S straight from the headphone-out socket of my FiiO X3ii + E17K and/or X3ii + IMS Hybrid Valve Amp , and also used (at different times) my iPhone 5S, and a variety of the other DAPs I have around me. Although I tested them with an amplifier, I do not think they benefit from additional amplification (I use mine mainly for consistency when reviewing and also to extend battery life on the X3ii). In the time I have spent with the FLC8S, I have noticed no changes in the overall sonic presentation, but am aware that I am also becoming more used to the signature of the FLC8S as I use them more often (brain burn-in).
     
    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.

    THE REVIEW

     
    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
    The FLC8S arrived in one of the most unique boxes I've come across in over 100 audio reviews. At first glance it looks like a beige rectangular cube – sort of like an outer shipping box – measuring approx 160 x 130 x 90 mm. It has the FLC logo on the top and sides, and the simple description “Hybrid Headset”.
     
    flc8s01.jpg flc8s02.jpg flc8s03.jpg
    The quite plain looking box
    Top lid flipped open to reveal the FLC8S
    Pressing down on the foam reveals a hidden compartment

     
    At the bottom left of the front face is a simple instruction to “open here”. Lifting this cover reveals the FLC8S safely nestles in a form-fitting blue foam top section. On the foam is neatly labeled “press here” - and this reveals a second small compartment holding the tweezers and cable. OK – I was a bit lost, what about the accessories and filters? Then I noticed the bottom left again – once again telling me to “open here”. This revealed there was an upper tray and lower tray – with the lower tray opening like an older style jewellery box. The bottom tray housed the instruction manual, case (which holds the tips and other accessories), and the clever filter holder.
     
    flc8s04.jpg flc8s05.jpg flc8s06.jpg
    The original foam layer flipped to reveal cable
    Box opened right out to reveal lower cavity
    Bottom cavity holding case and filter holder

     
    The entire package is incredibly comprehensive and includes:
    1. The FLC8S
    2. The metal alloy screw top carry case
    3. The metal alloy filter holder (also screw top)
    4. 4 sets of clear silicone tips (L, M S, VS)
    5. 4 sets of black silicone tips (L, M S, VS)
    6. 1 4-core replaceable cable (twisted)
    7. 1 cleaning tool
    8. 1 airline adaptor
    9. 1 3.5-6.3 mm adaptor
    10. 3 pairs ULF tuning plugs (with a couple of spares)
    11. 3 pairs LF tuning plugs (with a couple of spares)\
    12. 4 pairs MF/HF tuning bores
       
    flc8s07.jpg flc8s08.jpg flc8s09.jpg
    All the accessories
    The very sturdy FLC8S case
    Case top (you can just make out the subtle FLC etching

     
    The carry case is incredibly solid, and quite large – 80mm diameter and just under 40mm in height – so it is more transportable than portable (not really pants pocket friendly), but it is perfect for protection and I've used it a lot for transport between home and work. It is nicely lined with soft felt for protection.
     
    The filter case is likewise solidly built and comprises a capsule with screw on top, and inside is a mould which has enough room to house 3 pairs of tuning bores, and 2 pairs of each of the ULF and LF tuning plugs. For most people this is ideal, as they'll have the others fitted on the FLC8S – but when we come to the tuning section I'll explain why I would have personally liked room for another couple.
     
    flc8s34.jpg flc8s10.jpg flc8s13.jpg
    Tip selection
    Very good FCL manual (more on that later)
    The filter holder / fob.

     
    Overall – the packaging is unique, very comprehensive, and looks like it covers everything you're likely to need.
     
    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    (From FLC)
     
     
    FLC8S
    Type
    Hybrid dual BA + 8.6mm Dynamic Driver
    Frequency Range
    20 Hz – 20 kHz
    Impedance
    11 ohm
    Sensitivity
    117 dB @ 1kHz 1mW
    Cable
    1.2m 4 core single twisted copper (replaceable)
    Jack
    3.5mm gold plated, straight jack
    Weight
    Approx 14g with tips in place
    IEM Shell
    Hi-gloss strengthened plastic

     
     
    BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
    The FLC8S is made in either high gloss blue or high gloss red, and at first glance you'd think it was made of polished coloured aluminium. But once you have it in your hand, the extremely light weight and feel confirms it is actually a moulded two piece plastic shell. Each earpiece is very ergonomic – designed to fit the contours of the ears, and it is clear that Forrest has taken great pains to ensure the shell is well rounded and without sharp edges.
     
    flc8s19.jpg flc8s20.jpg flc8s21.jpg
    Shell showing the 3 filter placement choices
    Side view back and front - showing nozzle extension
    Internal side - note left/right markings

     
    The shell (without cable) measures approx 18 mm long, 18mm from top to bottom, and the main body is only around 10mm deep – with the nozzle extending a further 8-9mm. The body is L shaped, and the nozzle is perpendicular to the main body (rather than angled). There is one port on the external face which houses the LF tuning plug, and one port on the internal face with houses the ULF tuning plug. The nozzle has no lip, but is threaded, and the lip is provided by the addition of the tuning filter bores (which simply screw in place).
     
    flc8s22.jpg flc8s23.jpg flc8s24.jpg
    Nozzles upright - note the very smooth rounded surfaces
    Main bore/filter fitting - screw in
    ULF filter placement

     
    Each IEM internal face has a L or R indicator stamped into the body mould adjacent to the cable connection socket. This socket is two pin, and takes 0.75mm pins – I.E. the same configuration as the UE TF10. The sockets are raised, with the cable plugs fitting snugly over the top for added strength. The cables also have L or R printed on the outer plug housing.
     
    flc8s25.jpg flc8s26.jpg flc8s27.jpg
    LF filter placement
    MF/LF filters create natural lip for tips
    Cable guides and TF10 type connector

     
    Each cable has 75mm of formable memory wire for form fitting over your ears, and I find this quite handy for getting them to sit correctly when worn. The cable is 4 core single twisted copper strands in continuous twist from the plugs to the jack (the twisted pair becomes a twisted quad below the Y-split) which allows a simple replacement of the jack to convert to balanced.. Unfortunately the cable, while quite flexible, is also both microphonic, and also retains a lot of memory making it quite unruly. It tends to retain any kinks and can be quite difficult to fully straighten. One of the photos below shows the FLC8S next to the MEE P1.  Both were nicely coiled when I gently placed them in the light box. Its sad such a great design has such a poor cable.
     
    flc8s28.jpg flc8s29.jpg flc8s31.jpg
    Another view of the cable connection
    The unruly cable next to the MEE P1 (beautifully coiled)
    The 4 strand cable - easy to balance

     
    The Y-split is a simple piece of heat-shrink, which is quite effective, and has another piece of clear plastic tube above it for a cinch – but unfortunately this does not work well with the cable jack (it is too tight – and therefore too hard to effectively move). The jack is right angled, gold plated, and has both good strain relief, and also is smart-phone case friendly.
     
    flc8s32.jpg flc8s30.jpg flc8s18.jpg
    Y-split and cinch
    Jack
    Jack next to filters (so you can see how small they are)

     
    All in all, the build quality is pretty good and seems nicely robust. I'm not overly fond of the cable, and if this was to become my daily use IEM, the first thing I would do is to replace it with something having less microphonic and unwanted memory tendencies. For the price, it is one of the weaker points in an otherwise very good build.
     
    FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION
    The ergonomic shape of the FLC8S combined with the light weight, and well rounded surfaces make this IEM one of the most comfortable I've ever worn. If you take the time to properly mould the memory wire, it sits perfectly on my ears, and is definitely flat with my outer ear (which allows me to lay easily on my side with the IEM's intact). About the only slight issue I've found with the FLC8S is that it has a tendency over time to slowly push the preferred foam tips I use out of my ears. They never push all the way out, and don't usually break the seal – but I do wonder if the nozzles were slightly angled maybe the issue would disappear. Something for Forrest to consider with subsequent releases perhaps.
     
    flc8s35.jpg flc8s36.jpg flc8s37.jpg
    Spinfits and Sony isolation tips both worked
    as did Spiral Dots and Ostry tuning tips
    My preferred foams which also worked with no filter/bore

     
    If I was using any of the tuning bores, they all come with a slightly serrated metal edge which allows for easy grip when fitting or removing – and this acts as a lip for the nozzle. This means that practically any tip will fit, and this includes smaller bore tips like Spinfits or Sony Isolation tips. And this also applies to Ostry tuning tips and even wider bore Spiral Dots. My preferred foams also fit well, and the only downside was that if you are using a foam tip, and change filters often, the serrated edge can tend to pull the internal bore tube out of the foam tips. Because I had to make so many changes when I was measuring all the filters – I actually destroyed two pairs of generic foam tips.
     
    The one thing that some may not know is that you can also use the FLC8S without any internal bore filter fitted. There is enough of the nozzle to accommodate a tip but using this method means there is no lip. Fortunately for me foam tips fit well, and this has become my preferred default configuration.
     
    Isolation with the FLC8S will depend on the seal you achieve, insertion depth, and also the choice of filters. Being a ported design with a shallow fit, I'd describe the isolation as adequate or average – without being excellent (few hybrids are). With music playing, you're isolated pretty well. They would be good for most public transport but I personally wouldn't be using the FLC8S for long haul flights.
     
    So the new FLC8S looks good, has a good build, and is extremely comfortable to wear. Let’s have a quick look at my initial impressions, then take a look at the filters in more depth, and then move onto sonic impressions.
     
    FIRST IMPRESSIONS - USABILITY
    So the FLC8S had just arrived, I was keen on seeing how the filters worked, so I grabbed the included tweezers and attempted to remove the first ULF filter. Crack – plastic filter snapped at the head and was basically ruined. Thankfully there was a spare red one. So first lesson learned – the included tweezers are unwieldy, and basically there as a decoration (for me anyway, they are simply too big and pretty much useless). Much easier to simply use your finger nails.
    flc8s16.jpg
     
    So I carefully put a white cloth down, and proceeded to remove the red ULF and inset a clear. Slightly missed the hole (they are tricky) – said filter ricochetted off the housing, and disappeared into our carpet. After 10 minutes searching I gave up (thankfully again Forrest had included spares), so from that point on I have been super careful both removing and fitting the filters plugs, and haven't lost or broken another one yet. But word to the wise – these are really tiny, not easy to grip in bigger fingers, and quite frustrating at times to fit. Forrest – if you had a system where you could have a fixed dial with 3 or 4 settings, and the dial stayed intact – that would be a far nicer system! But I still have to give it to Forrest and his team – the “tweakability” of the filter combinations is quite incredible – and that is what makes this IEM so unique. So lets look a little more in depth at the filter system
     
    FILTERS AND FREQUENCY GRAPHS
    The FLC8S comes with 3 different options for controlling the sound – an ultra low frequency port (ULF), a low frequency port (LF), and the tuning bores which control mid-range and high frequencies (MF/HF). Forrest advertises 36 different combinations and you have 3 ULF plugs, 3 LF plugs, and 4 MF/HF bores – so using simple math that gives 3 x 3 x 4 = 36 combinations right. Well actually not quite. The LF can be used without a plug, and it has another subtle change to the mid-bass. Also the nozzle can be used without a bore at all (I'll show you in a minute why I prefer it that way) – and that has quite a change on the frequency response. You could also remove the ULF filter – but I'm not counting that as an options as it cripples the sound. So the reality of tuning now is 3 (LF) x 4 (LF) x 5 (MF/HF) = a massive 60 different tuning combos.
     
    flc8s14.jpg flc8s15.jpg flc8s17.jpg
    MF/HF filters
    ULF filters
    LF filters

     
    The only problem is that trying to make sense of all those options can simply be too daunting. But thankfully Forrest includes some recommended options and combos on the instruction manual – see the images.
     
    flc8s11.jpg flc8s12.jpg channelmatch.png
    Explanation of filters from the manual
    Forrest's recommendations (see graphs at bottom of review)
    Channel matching is excellent

     
    Looking at the filters themselves – this is how they stack up:
     
    Filter
    Colour
    Effect
    ULF
    Red plug
    Most sub-bass
    ULF
    Grey plug
    Medium sub-bass
    ULF
    Clear plug
    Least Sub-bass
    LF
    No filter
    Most mid-bass
    LF
    Black plug
    Medium/high mid-bass
    LF
    Grey plug
    Medium/low mid-bass
    LF
    Clear plug
    Least (flattest) mid-bass
    MF/HF
    Gold bore
    Most MF and medium HF
    MF/HF
    Green bore
    Most HF and medium MF
    MF/HF
    Black bore
    Medium MF and medium HF
    MF/HF
    Blue bore
    Least HF
    MF/HF
    No Bore
    Moves MF and relatively high HF

     
    But the easiest way I can show you what I’ve found is simply to show the comparative changes by graphing them. The graphs below are generated using the Vibro Veritas coupler and ARTA software. I must stress that they aren’t calibrated to IEC measurement standards, but the raw data I’m getting has been very consistent, and is actually not too far away from the raw data measured by other systems except for above 4-5 kHz where it shows significantly lower than measurements performed on a properly calibrated rig. So when reading the graphs, don’t take them as gospel – or at least remember that the area above 4-5 kHz will likely be significantly higher. It is my aim to get this system calibrated at some stage in the future.
     
    The graphs are provided merely as a point of discussion, and should be used for comparative results only – they do not reflect the true calibrated frequency response(particularly above 4-5 kHz). For each setting I've used the most neutral filters for the other settings (grey LF, grey ULF, and black MF/HF) as controls and then shown the range of filter options for the single filter being tested.
     
    ULF filter
    ulffilters.png
    Three options – clear, grey and red. They are all a straight plastic, very small and fiddly to fit, and you do need to handle them relatively carefully (easy to lose and can break). They control the sub-bass pretty well, and their overall curves are very dependent of the LF filter used in tandem. The red filter has the most rise, and this does add some slam. The grey extends pretty well before a slow roll-off around 40 Hz. The clear has the least, but can also be the most natural depending on which LF (mid-bass) filter you use.
     
    LF filter
    lffilters.png
    Although there are 3 actual filters, in reality there is 4 viable options – clear, grey, black and none. The actual filters themselves are small, rubbery, and the hardest to fit. Often I found the black and grey filters quite close to each other (the graph shows it too), but you an get more variation when combined with different ULF filters. Once again the clear has the least mid-bass, and TBH the only time I really liked this one was when combined with the red ULF (creates a very flat bass signature). Using no filter here gives the most mid-bass, and as you'll see later in the review, provides some surprising results when configured to my liking.
     
    MF/HF filter/bores
    mhffilters.png
    Easiest to fit, and 4 physical options – with each filter being just under 10mm long, and screw directly into the nozzle, creating a natural lip to retain the tips. Personally for me (while they were pretty good), none were perfect. My issue (and this is purely my preference) is that each filter had a bump to a varying degree between 1-2 kHz, then a drop-off between 2-3 kHz. You'll notice many earphones are often flat between 800 Hz and about 1.5 kHz before rising as they head toward 2 kHz. The reason for that is that the mid-range is where we are most sensitive anyway, and while boosting between 1-2 kHz can create heightened clarity around the vocal area, some can find this a little fatiguing, and it can also narrow the perception of sound-stage – bringing the vocalist too close. The other issue with bumping the 1-2 kHz area, is that if it is not followed with a subsequent rise (or at least flat) section in the 2-3 kHz area, you can lose some presence or sweetness - especially with female vocalists. The one thing I do like about these filters though is the way they provide options in the lower treble. Your choice will often be dictated by how sensitive you are to brightness, with the green being the brightest and blue the smoothest. I personally find the filter with the best overall cohesion between upper and lower mids is the green filter. It has the least bump at 1-2 kHz and it is tempered by a secondary small rise in the 2-3 kHz range which helps with presence, but unfortunately it comes with a cost of heightened treble.
     
    Fortunately there is another option which involves removing the MF/HF bore altogether. This removes the 1-2 kHz bump, and leaves you with a rise at 2-3 kHz, but unfortunately also a big rise at around 7-8 kHz (which is quite a peak).
     
    Real Versatility
    nofilterbalance.png
    And here is where I can show you how truly versatile the FLC8S really is. My ideal signature is a relatively flat bass with a slight mid-bass hump, and either flat extension through to sub-bass or slight roll-off. For mid-range I'm OK with a slight recession between the mid-bass hump and (hopefully) a nice gentle rise in the presence area at 2-3 kHz. After that – the lower treble area often doesn't matter as much to me, as long as there is enough presence to hear good decay on cymbals, and hopefully not trigger my sibilance areas. It's not surprising that many other earphones also mimic this type of response. Well choosing the clear ULF with no LF filter, and then no MF/HF filter gives an almost perfect curve. The clear ULF (least impact) combined with no LF (most mid-bass) gives a really nice flat curve with a gentle (and very natural sounding) mid-bass. And this combo with the mid-range bump moved into the presence area gives almost perfect balance. And in reality starts almost sounding HD600 like. It's not perfect – but for me it is something I can listen to for hours on end – and that is the magic of Forrest's filter system. My only wish is that there were a few more options with the bump in the 2-3 kHz area. Anyway – I've graphed my preference against the red/black/gold that many have talked about as being one of their favourite signatures. And remember I said I would have liked more room in the filter holder? This is simply because I have 2 HF/LF filter bores and 2 LF filters which I'm not using, and are effectively “spares”.
     
    The great things is that there is no right or wrong – you set the FLC8S up the way you like it.
     
    AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
    flc8s38.jpg
    With 11 ohms impedance and 117 dB sensitivity, you can run the FLC8S from any source – power is simply not an issue. The one thing you will need to take into account though is the 11 ohm impedance – which suggests an ideal damping ratio of around 1ohm or less on your source. With typical pop/rock songs on the iP5S I’m usually at a volume level of around 25-35%, on the X3ii around 30-40/120. I did try amping with the E17K and IMS Hybrid Valve amp, and while I noticed no obvious signs of improvement from a driving point of view, both amps were pretty good matches for tonality. The Hybrid Valve amp brought a slightly softer tonality to the lower treble peak ( a really nice combo actually), and with the E17K I could apply -2 or -4 treble, and just soften the same peak. The result was brilliant. So overall I'd recommend amplification if you simply want to adjust the tonality a little, or if you have issues with high impedance on your normal source's output. You won't need it for the power.
     
    EQUALISATION
    It doesn't need it – and that is what the filters are for. But as I outlined above, it can be useful for smoothing peaks if you need to.
     
    SOUND QUALITY
    The following is what I hear from the FLC8S. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my FiiO X3ii + IMS Hybrid Valve amp as source.
     
    Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.
     
    The filter set-up I used was clear, none, none as outlined above in the filter section. I actually thought a lot about skipping this section altogether – but thought it was still important to write my thoughts on what is for me the best filter combo.
     
    Thoughts on General Signature
    The sound signature with this filter combination is well balanced with a slight tendency toward brightness, incredibly clean and clear, and tilted slightly toward more presence for female vocals (male vocals are still very good but have slightly less presence). Mid bass sounds beautifully natural with enough thump to be pleasing, but without anything dominating. Sub-bass is there, but again balanced and does not dominate.
     
    Overall Detail / Clarity
    Tracks used: Gaucho, Sultans of Swing
     
    1. Very, very clean presence and presentation with perfect balance and real cohesion between bass, mid-range (vocals), and upper end detail (hi-hats/cymbals).
    2. Extremely good detail retrieval with every nuance shown but not etched (it still sounds very natural). Cymbals are incredible – especially the decay.
    3. Guitar has wonderful edge – crisp and clean
    4. Vocals in both tracks are nicely presented in contrast to the rest of the track, and blend naturally.
     
    Sound-stage, Imaging, and Sibilance Test
    Tracks used: Tundra, Dante’s Prayer, Let it Rain
     
    1. Very precise directional cues, just outside the periphery of my head space – so very good feeling of width and reasonable feeling of depth.
    2. Imaging is incredibly clean and clear and excellent separation of instruments without being clinical.
    3. Dante's Prayer was practically perfect with stunning contrast between the cello, piano, and Loreena's excellent vocals.
    4. Good immersion (applause section of Dante's Prayer) with impression that crowd is around you (you are sitting right in it). Probably a little more width than depth, but good none the less.
    5. Sibilance is present in “Let It Rain” - I know it exists in the recording. However it isn't overly emphasised, and for me is very tolerable.
     
    Bass Quality and Quantity
    Tracks used: Bleeding Muddy Water, Royals
     
    1. Very good mid-bass impact and great portrayal of the overall dark mood. Mark's vocals have wonderful presentation of timbre, and texture (“Muddy Waters”) and whist they may not be as deep as I have heard them before, I am really enjoying this particular presentation.
    2. Good speed and bass resolution – not too boomy, but there is slight decay present.
    3. No signs of bass bleed into the mid-range
    4. Surprisingly good sub-bass (even with this filter combo) for rumble (“Royals”) but not over-done (perfect balance actually).
    5. Ella's vocals are incredibly presented – with good separation from mid-bass impact.
     
    Female Vocals
    Tracks used : Aventine, Strong, For You, Human, The Bad In Each Other, Howl, Safer, Light as a Feather, Don’t Wake me Up, Ship To Wreck.
     
    1. Wonderful transition from lower-mids to upper-mids – this is one of the strengths of the FLC8S with this filter combo
    2. Very euphonic presentation with good air and a wonderful touch of sweetness to female vocals
    3. Brilliant contrast between vocals and lower pitch of instruments like cello
    4. No signs of stridency with Aventine and Strong
    5. Really good mid-bass impact with music with highly dynamic content (Feist, FaTM) – contrast between bass and vocals is excellent.
    6. Superb with slower female vocals and especially with artists like Gabriella Cilmi, Norah Jones and Sarah Jarosz.
    7. I could listen to this filter combo for hours with any of my female artists. It's not just good, it's practically perfect.
     
    Male Vocals
    Track used: Away From the Sun, Art for Art’s Sake, Broken Wings, Hotel California, Immortality (Seether), Keith Don’t Go, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.
     
    1. Presentation of male vocals will depend on how you normally like them, but this tuning is really extremely good and I'm appreciating how well this particular tuning does both male and female vocals without thinning either one.
    2. Bass presence is impactful from the mid-bass, and this provides good contrast with lead guitar.
    3. Excellent portrayal of classic rock artists like 10CC and Jethro Tull. Mix of detail and tonality is very good.
    4. Brilliant with acoustic tracks – especially Eagle's Hotel California. Spatial cues are very good with this live track too
    5. Showed a little thinness with Seether's cover of Immortality, but it doesn't take long to get used to the tonality and is still very enjoyable.
    6. Love the balance with Pearl Jam – and the texture and tonality with Eddie's vocals is very good. Cymbal decay was magic in this track (there is a lot of it). Another band I could listen to for hours. So clean and clear, and I think this is what really makes all vocal tracks stand out.
     
    Other Genre Specific Notes
    1. Not going to go through all of these – as this is just such a great all-rounder
    2. Particularly strong with Jazz and Blues
    3. Loved classical – airy, detailed, sombre when it needed to be, light and deft for stringed ensembles.
    4. Would possibly add a bit more sub-bass for some electronic, hip-hop, trance or dub (just a matter of dropping the red filter in)
    5. Indie could get a bit peaky – depending on the recording, but easy fix if used with the E17K, or simply dropping the 7-8 kHz peak down with EQ.
     
    COMPARISONS
    This section is practically impossible to write as you can change the outcome depending on the filters. So instead I thought I'd stick with my favoured filter combo, and show you why I like it (by comparing it with some other reasonably well-known IEMs).
     
    All of these comparisons are very subjective – and influenced by my own preference, physiology and bias. Comparison was once again with the X3ii + IMS HVA. All IEMs were volume matched with a 1 kHz tone and using a proper SPL meter (I used a splitter and variable resistor so I could swap back and forth quickly). The reason I chose each of these for comparison was very simple – all of them have roughly similar to this particular filter combo.
     
    FLC8S (~$340) vs DUNU Titan 5 ($140)
    flc8s39.jpg vstitan5.png
    FLC8S next to DUNU Titan 5
    Graphed comparative frequency response


    While the Titan 5 is less than half the price, it was one I though of immediately because tonally these sound extremely familiar. On build quality, the T5 has the advantage with the full metal shell, and it has a much better cable than the FLC8S. Fit on both is good and I'd be hard pressed to find a winner on the comfort stakes. Sonically the two IEMs are incredibly similar with the T5 having a little more sub-bass slam, while the FLC8S might have a little more mid-bass impact. They both have an incredibly similar mid-range with the same excellence overall in vocal presentation. The T5 is a little less spacious, a little more vivid, and a little brighter in its overall presentation. If I was shopping for one sound only, I'd probably pick the T5 – but the beauty of the FLC8S is that this is just one of the signatures it can mimic. If you are a tweaker – the extra outlay is worth it.
    FLC8S (~$340) vs Fidue A83 ($270)
    flc8s40.jpg vsa83.png
    FLC8S next to Fidue A83 ​
    Graphed comparative frequency response​

     
    This time we're triple hybrid vs triple hybrid, and I think a few might be a little surprised with the similarity here between the FLC8S and Fidue's former flagship. Both have similar build quality and comfort. The FLC8S has the better cable connection system (Fidue had past issues with the MMCX connectors), but the Fidue has the better default cable (although I am now using one of Trinity Audio's). Sonically there are similar traits in the bass, transition to mid-range, and even the lower treble. The difference primarily is in overall speed (the FLC8S just seems to have quicker transitions), in mid-range weight (the A83 is slightly thicker but also more vivid), and in clarity and cleanliness of tone (the FLC8S is simply cleaner and clearer). Although the Fidue is quite a bit cheaper, this time it isn't a fair comparison. The added versatility of the FLC8S simply trumps the A83 – although both remain excellent choices.
     
    FLC8S (~$340) vs DUNU DN-2000J ($300)
    flc8s41.jpg vsdn2000j.png
    FLC8S next to DUNU DN-2000J​
    Graphed comparative frequency response​

     
    Again this is triple hybrid vs triple hybrid, and for this one I couldn't use the splitter because plugging both at the same time affected the bass response (both being very low impedance), so I had to plug and unplug. Build quality overall once again goes to the DUNU – the all metal build and quality of the cable is simply better than the plastic shell and unruly FLC8S cable (despite the 2000J cable not being removable). Comfort is with the FLC8S though with the better ergonomic fit. Sonically both are similar sounding from bass through to mid-range, with the main difference being in the upper mid-range transition through to lower treble. The 2000J has more heat in this area and this is something I haven't really noticed a lot in the past, but which is very apparent now that I'm used to the FLC8S. Switching between the two, I would call the 2000J slightly peakier and also the FLC8S a little cleaner sounding (and that is quite some achievement). Hard to pick a winner based on this filter combo, but again taking into account the versatility of the filter tuning it is really hard to go past the FLC8S – even compared to an IEM I absolutely love.
     

    FLC8S - SUMMARY

     
    My time with the FLC8S has been a revelation – frustrating at times, but with plenty of “aha”moments along the way, and while I was somewhat less impressed at first, I've grown to slowly appreciate it more and more as time has gone by.
     
    The overall build quality is very good despite its plastic shell, and the ergonomics really are top notch – very comfortable overall. The one issue (which many have commented on) is the cable. It is simply very unruly, retaining too much memory, and having slightly too much microphonic noise to be acceptable on an IEM in this price range. If there is one glaring thing Forrest should change first it would be the cable. Something well built and flexible like the Trinity cables or MEE P1 would be ideal IMO.
     
    The real value of the FLC8S though is its filter system, and while they can be cumbersome to change, and confusing with so many options available, once you get used to them you can definitely tweak the sound a lot to match your preferences. My only gripe with the filters (aside from the fiddly nature) is that the tuning bores all have the same or similar 1-2 kHz bump which I personally find OK short-term but fatiguing long-term. In fact if I didn't have the ability to change this one particular trait, I would not be as positive towards this IEM as I am now.
     
    The FLC8S won't be for everyone – you have to be prepared to experiment (a lot). It definitely helps to have a knowledge of the type of signature you like, and for me – my measurement system really helped me nail down the ideal combo.
     
    So would I recommend this IEM – unreservedly so. While it is not perfect, the versatility you get for the asking price is well worth it. An easy 4 stars for me (with an extra 0.5 added for the innovation) – and all it would take would be inclusion of filters to move that mid-range a bit, as well as a decent cable, and this would be an easy 5 star review.
     
    Well done Forrest – innovative, unique and truly well thought out. Thank you for giving me the chance to listen to and evaluate your creation.
     
    flc8s42.jpg
     ​
    APPENDIX
    The following graphs are my measurements of Forrest's default recommendations.  They show some of the versatility of the FLC8S:
     
    vocal.png poprap.png piano.png
    Clear, clear, gold = vocal
    Grey, black, gold = pop/rap
    Clear, clear, green = piano or strings

     
    light.png default.png classical.png
    Clear, clear, black = light music
    Grey, grey, black = default
    Red, grey, green = classical

     
    Katie88, Asphalt, MidFiMoney and 21 others like this.
  6. twister6
    4.5/5,
    "Custom Tune the Sound, just the way YOU like it! FLC 8S Custom IEM Review"
    Pros - Resolving high def sound, pick from 36 filter combinations, premium replaceable cable, improved comfort w/custom fit design, unique storage case.
    Cons - small filter pieces, not a common 2-pin cable connector (UE style).

    This is a review of Custom IEM version of FLC8S 3-way hybrid IEM (will be referred in my review as FLC8C). The original FLC Technology FLC8S monitors are officially distributed by http://www.lendmeurears.com/flc-technology/, while the manufacturer website and FLC8C product page are still under development. I was told that expected price should be around 900-950 SGD, with faceplate options of carbon fiber (62 SGD), wood/metal/glitter/print (103 SGP), and steampunk (145 SGD). The review unit I received is a demo of a Custom FLC8 where the nozzle was modified to fit a regular eartip and the shell was modified for universal fit - set to me by LMUE in exchange for my honest opinion.
     
    6/14 update: Official FLC8S Custom LMUE page is up: http://www.lendmeurears.com/flc8s-custom/ and the price was set at $674.  The page includes pictures of 19 custom housing colors and 14 custom faceplate options.
     

     
    Often I’m being asked to recommend IEMs tuned for a specific sound signature or suited for a specific genre of music.  It’s not always the easy question to answer because the perception of a sound varies between people, and everybody has their own subjective opinion about it.  Even headphones tuned for a particular signature still have a degree of sound variation from the expected baseline.  And once we settle on a pair of headphones that we like, many still have a desire to continue with fine tuning by switching to different eartips which can change the amount of bass or switching to a premium cable which can add more sparkle to the sound.  Depending on a model, some IEMs even offer replaceable nozzle filters for a more noticeable sound adjustment, but nothing too drastic.
     
    One headphone manufacturer decided to take the idea of sound tuning a step further, and actually leapfrogged to a whole new level with a patented filter system like nothing I have seen before.  Even so FLC Technologies was started by Forrest Wei not too long ago (in 2011), he has many years of experience working for Ultimate Ears, Jabra, MWM Acoustics, and Harman.  With all this experience under his belt and fueled by a passion for design and innovation, Forrest made a serious attempt to reinvent the wheel of IEM sound tuning by using multiple filters in his debut release of 3-way hybrid FLC8, later replaced by FLC8S with improved build quality and updated cable.  Now, with a support of Teo and his Lend Me UR Ears, they are taking it to yet another level with soon to be available Custom model which I had a chance to test and would like to share with you about.
     
    Unboxing and Accessories.
     
    While the original FLC8S featured a unique jewelry box packaging (similar to PAW Gold box), FLC8 Custom (FLC8C) stepped it up with VIP Aluminum mini-briefcase box with a stamped FLC Technology logo on the top cover.  Actually, it comes in a cardboard box with a see-through film window on the top, but once you lift that top open you will see a legitimate high quality aluminum mini-briefcase with a latch.  The only thing missing was a handle which would have been cool.
     
    With a storage briefcase open, you will find removable egg crate foam lining in the top cover and a layer of foam lining with cutout partitioning on the bottom.  When it comes to the included accessories, the owners of the original FLC8S won’t find any surprises.  You get their familiar metal round storage container which has a top part with a thread to keep it securely closed, and unfortunately still lacking a lining to protect its content from banging inside during the transport.
     
    You also get 1/4" adapter and an airplane plug.  I consider both to be fillers – but hey, maybe some will find it useful.  A basic cleaning tool was included (actually there was two), one to clean bores of the nozzle and the other one probably to help with removal of nozzle filter.  I also received a set of eartips because my review pair of FLC8C was designed with universal nozzle to fit eartips.
     
    The package wouldn’t be complete without plastic fine point tweezers to assist in handling of small filter parts, and the blue bullet keychain designed to store various filter pieces fitted inside of its rubber holder.  Very generously, Lend Me UR Ears also included a 2nd set of filters in a small plastic bag – it’s easy to lose them during removal/install, thus an extra set was very welcome, and it could be purchased separately as well.  The included manual was in Chinese, but I was able to correlate filter designation by comparing to FLC8S English manual.  ULF and LF filters are the same, and instead of a removable nozzle (MF/HF) filters, now you have double plug with a few different colors I had to guess.  When FLC8C is ready for international shipment, a translated English manual will be included.
     
    Unboxing.
     
    flc_flc8C-01_zpsliyme2al.jpg   flc_flc8C-02_zpscq95bwti.jpg
    flc_flc8C-03_zpspx0sgcn3.jpg   flc_flc8C-04_zpsltmpktni.jpg
    flc_flc8C-05_zpsw9fekfcj.jpg   flc_flc8C-06_zps5s7m6int.jpg
     
    Accessories.
     
    flc_flc8C-07_zpsnjhvi7ru.jpg   flc_flc8C-08_zpsazqooxrq.jpg
    flc_flc8C-09_zpsbmdxwsbh.jpg   flc_flc8C-10_zpspnr7frpj.jpg
     
    Cable.
     
    I haven’t seen the cable from the original FLC8, but the fact it was updated in FLC8S tells me it had some issues.  Also during my brief testing of FLC8S, I wasn’t too crazy about its OFC cable either due to a rather springy wire and some microphonics.  Another annoying part of it, it uses a 2pin connector which is not universal but rather 0.75mm type found in legendary UE TF10 (hint, hint – Forrest connection to UE).  It’s definitely not the end of the world since you can still find replacement aftermarket cables with this connector, and any custom cable maker can utilize it as well.  But I wasn’t able to take advantage of my collection of aftermarket universal 2pin cables because they don’t accommodate 0.75mm spec.  As a matter of fact, you have to be very careful not to jam other cables by mistake.  Also, even so I had no issues with it, the connection of this UE-style socket is not as tight and secure as a common universal 2pin connector.
     
    But there is a “silver” lining to this cable situation – FLC8C comes with a single crystal silver upgrade cable, an included $107 bonus which can be purchased separately as FLC8S accessory from Lend Me UR Ears.  I actually like this cable a lot better over the original one included with FLC8S.  It still has some memory effect, but not as springy, has a heat shrink tube for y-splitter, another sliding tube piece which functions as a chin slider, and a pre-shaped springy sleeve for over ear fit without annoying memory wires.  2pin connectors were angled and had red/black ID dots, and on the other side of the cable you have a right angled 3.5mm TRS headphone plug with a decent strain relief.  All 4 wires go to the connector, so would have been great to terminate it with a straight 2.5mm TRRS balanced plug and add 3.5mm TRS angled adapter – maybe something for FLC and Lend Me UR Ears to consider in a future.
     
    Now, the million dollar question:  is there a sound benefit when using “single crystal” silver cable over the stock OFC cable?  Being quite familiar with effects of different wire material which I have tested across many IEMs/CIEMs and various cables from my review collection, I had some expectations when switching between FLC8S stock and FLC8C upgrade cables, but arrived to a different conclusion.  While testing with all gray filters, what I consider to be a baseline sound sig, surprisingly I found this silver wire cable to improve low end resolution and articulation without affecting too much mids or highs.  It improves sub-bass texture and slightly elevates its quantity which in a relatively comparison was a bit rolled off with a stock OFC cable.  This is not a typical sound change I hear with my other thicker wire pure silver cables that usually brighten the sound of other IEMs I tested, but regardless of that – I liked the effect of this cable on FLC8C.
     
    Even without a sound improvement, I still like the new cable design and consider it to be a step up from the original FLC8S cable.  The improvement in bass performance, as I hear it, is just a bonus.  But I was still left wanting to try it with other silver or silver plated cables to hear the difference.  I hope down the road FLC will consider switching to a more common 0.78mm 2pin connector design, or at least offer it as an option when choosing Custom configuration of this IEM.
     
    flc_flc8C-11_zpsebopmot5.jpg   flc_flc8C-12_zpspwehvkoz.jpg
    flc_flc8C-13_zpszo55fbp7.jpg   flc_flc8C-14_zpsgherxd3d.jpg
    flc_flc8C-15_zps8fhnvwbu.jpg
     
    Design.
     
    I’m still amazed how FLC was able to fit a dynamic driver and a pair of BA drivers all inside of their original slim lightweight FLC8S shell.  Though I have seen the diagram of the 8S design, I would have loved a glimpse inside through a transparent shell to see it "in person".  Also, I was a bit on the fence about the fit due to combination of a small shell with a springy cable.  This is purely a subjective opinion and probably has to do with my ear anatomy, but on a few occasions the earpiece popped out of my ear, and a thought cross my mind wishing for the shell to be bigger.  Custom version of FLC8 turned out to be the answer to this prayer!  Actually intended for audio trade shows, FLC and Lend Me UR Ears made a few samples where the shell was modified to have a universal shape to fit any ear and the nozzle was replaced with a universal 2-bore design which accepts common eartips.
     
    Obviously, the official Custom version will be designed from your ear impression mold which you need to get from your local audiologist, and the final shell design should fit your ear like a glove.  But even with Universal version of this Custom FLC8C, I was able to get an excellent fit with a great isolation.  Once it becomes available, you will be able to customize it, including different faceplate designs such as carbon fiber, wood, metal, glitter, custom print, and even steampunk.  My review unit arrived in a semi-transparent yellow color shell, and I was grateful for being able to take a glimpse inside to see the arrangement of the drivers, and how the sound tubes and filters interact with each other.  As a result of these Universal-Custom modifications, my review unit ended up looking a bit Frankenstein-ish, but I'm sure the official Custom shell will have a more premium look.
     
    The biggest selling point of this design, at least for me personally, was the larger size shells and a better quality cable which yielded a perfect fit and improved comfort to the point where I forgot I even had them in my ears.  Just don't expect to fall asleep with your head down on the pillow while wearing FLC8C since they are not exactly flush and do stick out a bit.
     
    flc_flc8C-16_zpsbgjmaq7n.jpg   flc_flc8C-17_zps2jek3xpk.jpg
    flc_flc8C-18_zpscvfadwi0.jpg   flc_flc8C-19_zpsow6zheml.jpg
    flc_flc8C-20_zpsg1cyxccf.jpg   flc_flc8C-21_zpsqvqbdvjq.jpg
     
    The fit.
     
    flc_flc8C-29_zpsa6f2djhu.jpg
     
    Sound Filters.
     
    I'm sure many associate IEM filters with some sort of a replaceable nozzle filter and a predictable selection of three pieces with a default sound, reduced bass sound, and enhanced bass sound.  FLC decided to approach the filtering method in a completely different way.  They split their filters into 3 groups: ULF (ultra low frequency, associated with sub-bass), LF (low frequency, associated with mid-bass), and MF/HF (mid and high frequencies associated with midrange and treble).  Keep in mind, this is a hybrid design, thus ULF and LF will be focused on fine tuning the sound of Dynamic Driver, and MF/HF will be focused on fine tuning the sound of Dual BA drivers.
     
    This filtering system is nearly the same as found in FLC8S, with the only exception of a nozzle filter.  With 8S being a more traditional universal design, you unscrew and replace the nozzle part which controls a combined bore opening.  Custom FLC8C has a 2-bore nozzle design with a dual rubber-plug filter to control MF/HF.  Having the advantage of a clear shell, I can trace the path from a Dual BA going to one of the bores where the corresponding side of the dual plug has an actual filter while the Dynamic Driver (DD) goes to another bore and that side of a dual plug filter only varies in the opening width.
     
    The actual filtering of DD is done through 2 vents in the shell using the corresponding ULF and LF filter plugs.  The low frequency (LF) replaceable rubber plug goes into the vent located right across the DD.  The sub-bass frequency replaceable plastic push pin (ULF) goes into the separate vent with a tube connected to the output of DD driver.
    Each earpiece has 3 filters, one going into the nozzle and the other two going into the faceplate of the shell.  Each filter is color coded and corresponds to the following:
     
    ULF: clear - less ULF, gray - medium ULF, red - most ULF
    LF: clear - less LF, gray - medium LF, black - most LF
    MF/HF: clear - lower HF, gray - medium MF and medium HF, gold - most MF and medium HF, green - medium MF and most HF.
     
    If you do the math, you'll end up with 36 different sound combinations!!!  I'm not aware of any other IEM that can pull off the same.
     
    Sound Analysis.
     
    With so many unique sound combinations, how would you even describe the sound?  Based on filter description where gray is considered to be a happy "medium", I started with that setting as a baseline sound of FLC8C.  With all 3 filters selected as gray, I hear a very resolving, reference quality, expanded sound with a balanced signature, excellent retrieval of details, and an impressive transparency.  FLC8C has an excellent extension of the low end and high end (deep low end extension down to sub-bass, very textured, very articulate), punchy mid-bass, nicely balanced mids with just a perfect amount of body and excellent retrieval of details, sometime even down to a micro-detail level, and a high definition crisp airy treble.
     
    Soundstage is definitely above the average, though I do hear a bit more width then depth.  Layering and separation of instruments and vocals is very good, with a decent imaging that has a very convincing placement of instruments and vocals which actually improves as you switch to brighter high frequency filters.
     
    Now, starting with this all-gray baseline, I will go into a brief description of each filter variation and its effect on the sound.
     
    *** MF/HF variation
     
    gray - gray - clear: treble and upper mids are a little rolled off, while low end and lower mids stay the same, sound becomes a little smoother and warmer.
    gray - gray - gold: lower mids become a little bit thicker but not muddy, and as a result of this I hear treble a bit rolled off.
    gray - gray - green: treble gets boosted and becomes a bit grainy, but you do hear an improvement in airiness.
     
    *** LF variation
     
    gray - clear - gray: noticeable reduction in mid-bass where it becomes more neutral and flat.  It also thins out lower mids a bit, making sound more reference quality.
    gray - black - gray: adds more mid-bass hump, the same speed, just a little bit of quantity boost, but I do hear more body in lower mids which now sound a lot thicker, making overall sound a bit less transparent.
     
    *** ULF variation
     
    clear - gray - gray: i do hear sub-bass slightly more rolled off, but it's a rather subtle change, sub-bass is still extended but has a little less quantity.
    red - gray - gray: beefs up sub-bass without too much exaggeration which also improves the impact of the mid-bass. While LF boost affects lower mids, ULF boost affects/improves the whole sub-/mid-bass in a very positive and controlled way.
     
    *** favorite combo ***
     
    red - gray - gold: my favorite low end setting with a very articulate and well controlled bass and a smooth yet still detailed top end.
    red - gray - gray: the same as above, but with a more revealing and airy top end.
     
    flc_flc8C-28_zpsc488up6v.jpg   flc_flc8C-23_zps3oscfray.jpg
    flc_flc8C-24_zpsikffyzso.jpg   flc_flc8C-25_zpsb5p2ewlh.jpg
    flc_flc8C-26_zpsua1z20zv.jpg   flc_flc8C-27_zpswk2mmg9w.jpg
     
    Comparison to other headphones.
     
    This comparison was done using PAW Gold as a source, and FLC8C in its default filter config (except for 8S vs 8C comparison).
     
    FLC8S vs FLC8C – even so we are dealing with the same 3-way hybrid design and nearly the same filtering system, the shell design and the nozzle filter difference should account for some changes.  I used my favorite red-gray-gold filter setting on both for a comparison.  The first difference I hear is 8C soundstage being a little wider, while 8S has a little more depth.  The bass and the treble between these two sounds nearly identical, but I hear the difference in mids where 8C has more energy and a little better retrieval of details while 8S mids sound a little dryer and more withdrawn.
     
    FLC8C vs DN2kJ - DN has a similar soundstage expansion, not as deep sub-bass extension, more neutral bass in comparison, leaner lower mids, brighter upper mids, detail retrieval is similar (though DN is more analytical), DN has slightly better treble extension with more airiness.  Overall FLC8C is smoother with fuller body vs DN2kJ being leaner and more vivid.
     
    FLC8C vs Primacy - similar resolution but Primacy by default has a more lifted low end with a heftier sub-bass and a stronger mid-bass, a little more body in lower mids, similar upper mids, and more rolled off treble.  Very similar soundstage, though FLC is a little bit wider.
     
    FLC8C vs A83 - FLC soundstage is a little wider.  Mids and treble are very similar but the big difference is that A83 has more impact in the low end with deeper sub-bass and more mid-bass punch.  In this comparison FLC is more balanced and has a little better resolution.
     
    flc_flc8C-22_zpssajjrkod.jpg
     
    Conclusion.
     
    Regardless of Universal or Custom design, FLC8x is one very impressive pair of 3-way hybrid IEMs with an excellent resolution, great sound extension and soundstage expansion, and a very flexible sound tuning.  Its triple-filter sound customization is what sets it apart from any other tunable monitor I have ever tested.  You almost feel like a sound designer, going through different filter combinations, adjusting the sub-bass, mid-bass, mids, and treble to tailor it to your exact liking.  It's true that filtering pieces are very small to handle, but typically you shouldn't be going back'n'forth with constant adjustments, though it's tempting.
     
    The biggest question in here is if Custom FLC8C worth nearly the double price of Universal FLC8S?  The word "double" has quite a weight to it, until you stop and think about the actual price of the universal version and realize that if you take into account a premium cable and a premium aluminum storage case, you are only paying about extra $200 for an improved Custom shell design with a superior fit and isolation.  I have a feeling many diehard fans of FLC8S will probably justify this price difference to turn this one of a kind 3-way hybrid IEM into one of a kind Custom fit earpiece.  And for those who have been eyeballing FLC8x design, the FLC8S still has one great value.
    Raketen, Brooko, Koolpep and 9 others like this.
  7. H20Fidelity
    4.0/5,
    "Great concept, great Idea"
    Pros - Adjustable sound signatures, great packaging,
    Cons - Caused some fit issues, cable lacks appeal, filters easy to lose
            flc8coverpic.jpg
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    FLC Technology were a company I'd never heard of until they surfaced on Head-fi late last year. They’re a Chinese based company with some very interesting ideas in regards to customizing your portable audio experience. Hybrid in-ear monitors have always been popular among the Head-fi crowd, with the use of a dynamic driver and balanced armature used in unity you can produce some excellent performance, it seems everyone including Sony are giving it a go. Where FLC Technology push the game further is adding a complete filter adjustable hybrid so you can cater the sound to 36 different approaches! 
     
     
    Specs:
     
    1. Sensitivity 107 dB/mW  @ 1000Hz
    2. Frequency Response 20Hz - 20Hz
    3. Drivers x1 8.6mm Dynamic + x2 Balanced Armature
    4. Impedance 11ohm
    5. Cable length 1.2m (detachable UE two pin configuration)
     
     
    Pricing:
     
    1. $349 USD (found at lendmeurears.com and other selected vendors)
     
    http://www.lendmeurears.com/flc8s-red/
     
     
     
    Packaging:
     
    Much thought went into the packaging the entire presentation arrives in a heavily built cardboard box with inserts that flick outwards and a design speech in itself, its not the kind of thing you would throw away after removing the earphones. Its built to last as a storage container for your accessories, filters and looks great in person. It is quite heavy though so one must take this into consideration.
     
     
    flcbox3-Copy.jpg
     
     
    flcbox1.jpg
     
     
    flcbox2.jpg
     
     
     
    Build:
     
    When I first laid eyes on FLC8 I would have believed the housings are actually metal or some form of durable aluminum, after some investigating it appears the housings are made of plastic, but like I said you'd never know unless you were told. This goes for the appearance and the feel of the housing. You can get them in two different colours (blue or red) and personally I think both look great with a little bias towards the red in colour.
     
    The cables are detectable as are the front filters which all appear to have decent threading and connections. There is however a short guide to take care when removing the cables as they're not 100% fool proof and can be damaged if care is not taken. I'll also add one should only remove the cables when absolutely required. While they're indeed detachable they're not 'indestructible'.
     
    I will say the cable is a little under the weather, it looks nice in photos but is a little stiff and doesn't feel all that premium to the touch, it has that wirey feeling that retains spring and may seem a little springy for those on the go in the outside world. The beauty of FLC8 is however it can use any third party UE two pin cable for those who want to upgrade, sound, aesthetics alike.
     
     
    build1.jpg
     
     
    build2.jpg
     
     
    build3.jpg
     
     
    flccable.jpg
     
     
    Fit / Isolation:
     
    Unfortunately for me getting a fit with FLC8 was a little underwhelming, particularly the left side liked to pop out of my ear often, I was able to keep them secure by lifting my ear before inserting the tip however over time it would wiggle its way out and I found myself pushing the left earpiece back in. It was ok sitting down or lying in bed but on the go they gave me some issues no matter which way I adjusted the ear guide or tips used. I think maybe because the housing is unable to pivot.
     
    I will say the majority of owners (and there are many) have not had the same issues so it appears the fit issue would be isolated to a selected few who just don't fit the mold correctly. I had read one other thread on Head-fi where a member had the same issue. Isolation was also affected because of the fit issue but I'll say once sealed isolation was more than satisfactory but not an entirely strong point for my experience, especially outdoors.
     
    Accessories:
     
    Included in the package is:
     
    1. x12 Silicon tips ( Small / Medium / Large)
    1. x1 Round metal case (very strong / durable)
    2. x9 Low frequency tuning plugs
    3. x9 Ultra Low frequency tuning plugs
    4. x8 Tuning nozzles
    5. x1 Pair of tweezers (for using installing the filters)
    6. x1 Filter storage case
    7. Airline adapter
    8. 6.3 to 3.5mm Jack Adapter
    9. Tuning guide
    10. Ear wax cleaning tool
     
     
    flccontents1.jpg
     
     
    contents2.jpg
     
     
    contents3.jpg
     
     
    contents4.jpg
     
     
    tuningguide.jpg
     
     
     
    Filter System:
     
    The most inspiring part of FLC8 is the tunable filter system allowing up to 36 different sound signatures. By changing the nozzle and two small filters located on the housing you're able to alter the sound signature closer to something you prefer. You can adjust the ultra low frequency, low frequency and mid-range which is a separate filter that attaches to the housing nozzle.
     
    I will show some illustrated pictures from the supplied tuning guide:
     
     
    guide1.jpg
     
     
    guide2.jpg
     
     
    guide3.jpg
     
     
    filterset.jpg
     
     
     
     
    Sound: 
     
    Because there are so many customization's available one would be mad to go through each one and write about them (absolutely mad I tell you). So what I have done is adjust FLC8 to what I feel is inline with my preferences which are bright/analytical. By doing this I'm able to mold FLC8 into something close as possible to my desired sound signature and write a sound description.
     
     
    The configuration I went for is:
     
    1. Red: Ultra Low Frequency
    2. Grey: Low Frequency
    3. Green: Mid-range Frequency
     
     
    Files used:
     
    1. FLAC 16/44 (all files)
     
     
    Sources used:

     
    1. iBasso DX80
    2. Cayin N5
    3. iBasso DX90
     
     
     
    Bass:
     
    With the red filters installed one of the best tracks to test sub-bass is Michel Jonasz – Le Temps Passe. Extension is good, the texture is great and there's a nice presence of clarity in the low-end. I won't say its the the most extended I've heard but most certainly a nice low -end. It has the correct speed and punch but still to my ears doesn't push out the most quantity. But even then its more than present and shows enough quality bass for its price range to impress the masses.
     
    Mids:
     
    With the green filters attached to the nozzles I was able to make FLC8 sound quite vibrant and on the brighter side, it makes a good experience for those who like a nice amount of clarity and detail in their presentation. I would even lean to say if your seal isn't correctly done you may even find them a little too lean. Detail levels are well present however I do wonder if something like Fidue A83 can push out a little more for the price between them.
     
    Refinement is nice, there's a nice tonality which again shimmers through the mid-range giving a quality timbre, areas like the upper mid-range have a nice push at times with vocals. All in all the quality of FLC8 is quite nice and I understand why people rave about them. There's hardly any siblance to be found and the earphone presents itself well.
     
    Treble:
     
    For testing treble and an IEMs ability to remain stable its always good to throw some modern recorded EDM tracks or electronic music, its these tracks that will test an the IEMs extension, refinement and strength at not showing any peaks or sibilance in the highs. FLC8 pulled this off nicely, even with the brighter green mid-range filters installed. It doesn't have the end to all in extension but does a clean job and showing itself.
     
    If I had to fault the treble it could sound a little metallic or one noted at times, Kind of ticking away in the background and allowing the mid-range to come through over the top. But again, I must stress this is just with my filter set up!
     
    Separation:
     
    Strong point, not the end to all but for the price a skilled area of this earphone, you get a good sense of instruments separating and even ticking in time together with the correct tracks. I would even say the amount of separation is slightly stronger then my main reference IEM in this price range, Fidue A83. I was impressed with this area.
     
     
    Soundstage:
     
    There is decent width but not a completely strong point, you won't feel anyway closed into the presentation and from my experience the sources used will completely alter this. I don't however perceive much depth from FLC8 it does sound a little flat in the center channel but most certainly not something that's going to draw your attention or distract you.
     
    Conclusion:
     
    Remembering I've only gone through one option of filters I really can't fault the sound I heard, it was on the brighter sound for those who like lean tonality and It does perform well. The accessories and build are nice, the entire idea of bringing such a customized earphone to the market in itself a great thought. The only real problems I can mention are the fit issues I experienced and the possibility of losing the filters, they're so small and fiddly to set up. I think while adjusting is fun many will find the correct set up for their personal preference and stick with it.
     
    I see lots of potential in the concept and its obvious appealing to the masses as the Head-fi thread for this earphone is well populated and healthy. Many members are completely happy with the performance and then some more. For me FLC8 won't become my every day earphone because I have those fit issues and personally I still lean a little towards Fidue A83 in this price range. At the end of the day, FLC Technology produced something different, unique, a one off of their own, and that's the beauty of FLC8.
     
    I'd like to thank FLC Technolgy and @DJScope for arranging the tour!
     
    casanova, Brooko, djvkool and 6 others like this.
  8. HiFiChris
    4.5/5,
    ""36 Faces of a Modder's and Tweaker's Delight" -or- "Flagship Performance for a Mid-Fi Price""
    Pros - that sweet & detailed midrange!, instrument separation, versatility, build quality, bass speed, coherency, good resolution
    Cons - tweezers useless even when correctly operated (better use your fingernails), upper treble refinement could be slightly better, microphonic stock cable
    FLC.jpg

     
     
    Preamble:

    There are various universal in-ears out there that feature replaceable sound tuning filters that guarantee for a (sometimes more, sometimes less significant) sound alteration to one’s personal preference, but there hasn’t been any that allows for 36 filter combinations – well, at least until now, as the FLC Technology FLC8s does indeed offer three filter groups that can be combined to 36 possible filter combinations.
    FLC Technology (flctechnology.com) is a Chinese audio company that was founded in 2011 by Forrest Wei. The letters F, L and C (pronounced “Fu Lai Si”) by the way stand for “Happiness/Fortune comes here”. Before FLC, Forrest has worked as engineer at various renowned audio companies for many years (his vita contains Ultimate Ears, Jabra, MWM Acoustics and Harman), and this experience can be indeed heard with his latest creation, the FLC8s. Before this model, FLC Technology offered a custom-moulded hybrid in-ear that offered the same patented filter technology.
    What’s quite special about the FLC8s is that unlike many other hybrid in-ears which feature a coaxial driver design layout where the midrange/high frequency drivers sit in front of the dynamic woofer and end in a large single-bore nozzle, Forrest’s creation features an independent dual-bore design that merges before the nozzle, which allows for the individual tuning of the different driver designs.

    A sample of the FLC8s In-Ears was provided to me free of charge for the purpose of an honest evaluation. My hearty thanks go to FLC Technology’s Forrest Wei and Lend Me UR Ears for this opportunity.


    Technical Specifications:

    Price: ~ $349 (http://www.lendmeurears.com/flc8s-red/)
    Sensitivity: 107 dB/mW @ 1000 Hz
    Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
    Drivers: 1x 8.6 mm dynamic, 2x Balanced Armature
    Impedance: 11 Ohms
    Cable Length: 1.2 m


    About Hybrid In-Ears:

    As you can read from the technical specifications, the FLC8s is a little different from most In-Ears and doesn’t only use dynamic or Balanced Armature transducers, but combines both in one shell.

    Most In-Ears use dynamic transducers for audio playback which have the advantage of covering the whole audible spectrum and achieving a strong bass emphasis without much effort. Valuable dynamic drivers are often said to have a more bodied and musical bass that has a more soft impact and decay and lacks of the analytical character that BA transducers are known for. On the downside, in contrast to headphones with other driver principles, dynamic transducers often have a lower resolution.

    Higher-priced and professional IEMs mostly use Balanced Armature transducers, which usually have got a higher resolution than dynamic drivers, are faster, more precise and have got the better high-level stability, which is important for stage musicians that often require higher than average listening levels. On the downside, it is quite hard to cover the whole audible spectrum with just a single BA transducer and strongly emphasised bass is only possible with multiple or big drivers. Some people also find In-Ears with BA transducers to sound too analytical, clinical or cold (in several active years in a German audio community where I wrote multiple reviews, gave dozens of purchase advice and help, from time to time I heard people that got into BA earphones for the first time using these attributes for describing BA earphones, especially their lower frequencies).

    Hybrid IEMs unite the positive aspects of both driver principles and use one dynamic transducer for lows reproduction and at least one BA driver for covering mids and highs, wherefore the often as “musical” described bass character remains and the BA transducers add resolution and precision to the mids and highs – and that’s what the FLC8s does with its technology. It is addressed to those people who perceive the clinically-fast character of BA transducers as unnatural, but want to keep the mids’ and highs’ resolution, speed and precision.


    Delivery Content:

    For me, a valuable product deserves an appropriate packaging, and the FLC definitely does not disappoint in this regard.
    On the outside, the slightly larger, surprisingly heavy and sturdy box is rather plain looking with its pale sand colour and the silver logos, but offers a quite interesting and well-thought, unique way to open it, whereon the arrow with the “open here” text in the lower left corner already gives a hint. The front (and all ensuing sides that can be opened) is magnetically attached and can be folded up, kind of like a chest. Then, the in-ears which are embedded in blue foam become visible. Pushing on the foam where the black arrow with the “press to open” text is located, it can be taken out; inside this upper layer are large plastic tweezers and a quick-start guide that explains the filters and gives some combination examples.
    On the front, another arrow with “open here” text points to the left side which can be swung open as well, then the whole top layer with the foam can be flipped away to the right side, which is pretty cool in my opinion. Inside the second layer, one can see the blue foam again which embeds the carrying case for the in-ears as well as the small cylinder that contains the filters.
    In a plastic bag are a 6.35 to 3.5 mm adapter, a cleaning tool, an airplane adapter, four pairs of black silicone tips, three pairs of white silicone tips (the fourth pair of the white tips is already installed) as well as finally six spare tuning filters for the bass and sub-bass.
     

    IMG_20160208_183016_hdr.jpg   IMG_20160208_183027_hdr.jpg
    IMG_20160208_183058.jpg   IMG_20160208_183149_hdr.jpg
    IMG_20160208_183215_hdr.jpg   IMG_20160208_183256.jpg
    IMG_20160208_183318_hdr.jpg   IMG_20160208_183402.jpg
    IMG_20160208_183415.jpg   IMG_20160208_184337.jpg
    IMG_20160208_184454.jpg   IMG_20160208_184704_hdr.jpg
    IMG_20160208_184835.jpg   IMG_20160208_184852.jpg



    Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

    The in-ears are available in two colours (red or blue), quite small and made of plastic, which I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t randomly read it somewhere on the internet, as I really thought FLC8s’ bodies were made of metal, as they feel very sturdy, are extremely well varnished (wherefore they appear like they were made of metal) and the used plastic is of very high quality; additionally no glue residues can be found at the part where both body halves are joint.
    On the inside are the holes for the sub-bass filters; also on the inside are the side-markers on the bodies as well as on the cable connectors. On the outside, the holes for the bass filters can be found. The filters for the midrange and treble are made of metal and screwed into the nozzle.
    Except for the mids/highs filters, the other rubber/plastic filters for the lows are really small and easy to loose, wherefore changing them should be best done with steady hands and when sitting.

    IMG_20160208_185520.jpg   IMG_20160208_190331.jpg

    The cable is of dark blue colour, replaceable and features the same 2-pin connector system as the Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 (0.75 mm pins). Although it has got the typical, valuable, twisted quad-litz style from the professional audio sector, it is a bit springy (though at the same time quite flexible, nonetheless not as flexible as other twisted cables) and has a cable cinch (chin slider) that sits enormously tight so that it can only be moved with much effort. To top it all, it is quite microphonic, but more about that in the next “Comfort, Isolation” paragraph.

    IMG_20160208_185038.jpg   IMG_20160208_185104.jpg
    IMG_20160208_185118.jpg   IMG_20160208_190342_hdr.jpg

    The carrying case is made of metal and I quite like it: although it may not be best suitable for fully portable use, it looks and feels very valuable, massive and has got precisely cut threads. The outside has a really beautiful gunmetal-blue finish and is completely bolstered with fabric on the inside (which is in my opinion a must for every in-ear case – I can’t stand bare plastic or metal on the inside of a protection case), so the in-ears are well protected.
    The small blue cylinder with the keychain for the tuning filters strongly reminds me of the one that came with my Shure SE846, however the blue one of the FLC8s has got the benefit that the filter elements are stuck into a block of rubber, so it is less easy to lose the seven pairs which are inside (the three others are in the in-ears themselves).
     

    IMG_20160208_185006.jpg   IMG_20160208_185449.jpg
    IMG_20160208_185917_hdr.jpg   IMG_20160208_190205_hdr.jpg



    Comfort, Isolation:

    The in-ears are actually quite small and are easy to insert into the ears; then they sit very securely and comfortably, whereto the cable connector’s angle also plays a leading role. With my large ears, I have almost never problems with the fit of in-ears anyway, so these sit extremely well in my ears, too – but even most people with (very) small ears should be able to get a really good fit and comfort with the FLC8s.
    Like most models in this price range, the in-ears are supposed to be worn with the cables over the ears which usually improves fit as well as comfort and drastically reduces microphonics – unfortunately the latter is not true in this case, as FLC8s’ cable is quite microphonic for a model of its kind and transports cable noise with every small touch or movement – pity! Tightening the cable cinch behind the head and then guiding the cable over the shoulder, microphonics are slightly reduced, however still obviously stronger than they are supposed to be.

    Isolation is better than average, however not as strong as with fully closed in-ears. Nonetheless, exterior noise is blocked out somewhat more than with many vented in-ears.


    Sound:

    For testing, the source devices I used were the iBasso DX90, Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII, FiiO X3 (first generation) as well as LH Labs Geek Out IEM 100. Music material was mainly stored in FLAC format (lossless rips of my CDs in 16 Bit/44.1 kHz), but I also used Hi-Res, DSD and some MP3 files.
    I used the largest included white silicone tips for listening.

    Tonality:

    The major question I had to deal with while testing was “how do I best describe an in-ear that allows for up to 36 different sound signatures by using different filter configurations?”.
    My decision was then to first describe all filters and their effect individually and then finally to give a couple of different sound descriptions of a few filter combinations.

    Overall there are 10 pairs of filters that can be summarised in three groups that alter other frequency ranges, wherefore up to 36 different sound characteristics are possible (3 x 3 x 4 = 36). Included are three pairs for the sub-bass (“ULF”) that are inserted on the inner side of the bodies, three pairs for the bass (“LF”) that are inserted on the outside as well as four pairs that are screwed into the nozzle and have an effect on the midrange and treble (“MF/HF”).

    The different filters listed in tabular form:
    ULF
    LF
    MF/HF
     
     
     
    Clear = Minimum
    Clear = Minimum
    Blue = Minimum HF
    Grey = Medium
    Grey = Medium
    Gunmetal = Medium MF & HF
    Red = Maximum
    Black = Maximum
    Green = Medium MF & Maximum HF
     
     
    Gold = Maximum MF & Medium HF


    Ensuing are a few frequency response measurements of the different filters and the effect that they have on the frequency response. The plots’ colours also represent the filters’ colours.
    Please note that the plots weren’t recorded with professional equipment but with my Vibro Veritas coupler that was pseudo-calibrated to more or less match a real IEC 711 coupler’s response with applied diffuse-field target, hence the results shouldn’t be regarded as absolute values but rather as a rough comparison and for getting a general idea of the sound. Especially at 3, 6 and 9 kHz, there are sometimes greater deviations from professional plots, but for a general, rough comparison between various in-ears and filters, the results are sufficient.

    ULF-Filters:
    (ULF Filter  I  Grey  I  Gold)

    FRULF.jpg


    LF-Filters:
    (Grey  I  LF Filter  I  Gold)

    FRLF.jpg
     

    MF-/HF-Filters:
    (Grey  I  Grey  I  MF/HF Filter)

    FRMFHF.jpg


    With these in-ears, the focus lays obviously on the ability of individual sound adjustment with the help of the included filters that can form up to 36 (3 x 3 x 4) different combinations and sound signatures. For changing the filters, large plastic tweezers come included. For daily use, I found using my short fingernails (less than 0.5 mm) to be more helpful for changing the filters, as that gave me better control over the filigree things and they also slipped out of my hands way less often, nonetheless it is quite a fiddling to get them in and out. Probably smaller, rubberised tweezers would be more practical.

    What follows now is a small selection of different filter combinations that are displayed in this form: [ULF]/[LF]/[MF/HF]
     
    01: Grey/Grey/Gold:
    This is the filter combination the in-ears arrived with.
    The sound signature of it goes like this: down from 500 Hz, the bass emphasis which raises very evenly and flat begins and forms its climax which is about 6 dB north of neutral sound (Etymotic ER-4S) below 100 Hz, in the midbass; sub- and midbass are even plus plane and also in the sub-bass below 30 Hz, level doesn’t roll off. Given that, the bass is present, however definitely not over-accentuated and fits in coherently, as there is no unnecessary fundamental tone bloom.
    The mids around 1 kHz are broad-banded emphasised, with a somewhat greater focus on the upper mids, bringing out (especially female) vocals’ details a bit more, but also slightly accentuating sibilants if the recording isn’t super clean. Tonally, the mids are mostly correct in my ears, with just a minimal tendency to brightness (for reference, DN-2000J’s mids are minimally brighter than FLC8s’ in my ears). From the presence area above 2 kHz on, level drops evenly and forms a greater recession around 5 kHz which guarantees for good long-term listenability without fatigue and with unobtrusive mids; that’s why many in-ears show a somewhat similarly distinctive dip around 5 kHz, for example the Fischer Amps FA-3E whose dip in the middle treble is about identical to FLC8s’ (a good thing is that it isn’t as distinctive as W4R’s dip which adds a bit too much smoothness and relaxedness to the highs and mids with a tendency to mugginess; FLC8s’ middle treble character is just “normal with a somewhat relaxed, non-obtrusive character” and clean plus detailed). From 6.5 kHz on, level starts increasing again and forms a peak in the upper treble at 8 kHz which is marginally above the ground-line and not annoying at all. Super treble extension is still good, with even level up to 12 kHz and an even roll-off from there on. Subtle “glare” above 10 kHz is still audible and I actually don’t miss anything in terms of treble extension, although there are some multi-BA in-ears that reach even higher in the treble before the roll-off begins.
    For daily use, this kind of tuning appeared to be quite enjoyable – the bass is somewhat accentuated but not too much to become obtrusive, but is just there to add a little weight, vocals come through very clearly due to the moderate emphasis and sound very clean, the somewhat recessed level in the middle treble guarantees for a good long-term listenability without fatigue and the slight emphasis in the upper treble is just lightly noticeable, though percussions sound slightly brighter.

    01FRgrey-grey-gold.jpg


     02: Grey/Clear/Blue:
    With this filter combination, I would describe the sound as quite neutral with smooth, dark treble.
    The bass is slightly more present than with a Clear/Clear/MF-HF combination (ca. 2 dB north of neutral below 80 Hz), though the benefit is that it doesn’t roll off in the sub-bass with this filter combination. Here, the mids show a slight broad-banded emphasis, too, though there is no emphasis in the upper midrange and vocals are on the darker as well as more relaxed side, without any signs of sibilance. The middle treble is somewhat in the background as well, though even a bit more than with the gold MF/HF filter, so the impression of a smooth, relaxed midrange and treble is even stronger (for my personal preference, it is even slightly too relaxed and heads into Westone W4R’s smoothness in the upper frequencies). The upper treble is now also clearly in the background and darkens the sound.
    If you love a balanced bass and midrange with a downwards-slope in the highs, this tuning might be for you.
     
    02FRgrey-clear-blue.jpg


    03: Red/Black/Blue:
    With this filter combination, sound is an evenly down-sloping curve from the sub-bass to the upper treble and slightly reminds me of the reference curve for car-hi-fi.
    Again, the emphasis in the lows starts at around 500 Hz and then increases very evenly with a straight line, without any hump, towards sub-bass where level is about 9.5 dB north of neutral at 30 Hz. The midbass is a bit less present and so is the upper bass with about 5.5 dB, with an evenly decreasing fundamental tone area. As a result of this characteristic, the bass fits in nicely and unobtrusively, without too much upper bass kick or fundamental bloom, as the emphasis is mainly in the mid- and sub-bass. Accordingly, the lows also commendably stay away from the mids.
    The midrange is not slightly emphasised anymore here with this filter configuration and is, just like with the previous Grey/Clear/Blue filter combination, somewhat on the dark, relaxed side. Treble is identical to the previous tuning.
    For a smooth, relaxed, bass-emphasised tuning with “cellar rumble”, this tuning is well-suited.
     
    03FRred-black-blue.jpg


    04: Red/Grey/Gold:
    This filter combination focusses more on the sub-bass, along with bringing a detailed midrange and correct treble into the game.
    The lows more or less resemble the previous Red/Black/Blue filter combination, however with this Red/Grey/Gold configuration, the sub-bass shows to advantage more as both the root as well as upper bass are slightly less present. The bass kicks a bit less and concentrates more on the “cellar rumble”.
    The mids around 1 kHz are just very minimally lifted and sound tonally correct in my ears.
    The middle treble is about identically in the background as with the first (Grey/Grey/Gold) combination and gives some smoothness and good long-term listenability without fatigue. The upper treble sounds quite natural and as well as not emphasised, but straight to the point.
    For a sound with balanced midrange and treble plus elevated sub-bass with less upper bass and fundamental tone, this filter combination works very well.
     
    04FRred-grey-gold.jpg


    05: Red/Black/Green:
    With this filter combination, the sound of the in-ears follows a v-shape.
    The bass is quite identical with the third filter configuration (Red/Black/Blue) and expresses itself with a somewhat emphasised “regular” low-range with upper bass and fundamental tone area, with the greatest focus being in the sub-bass.
    The mids around 1 kHz are just very marginally emphasised and in total view, when incorporating lows and highs, vocals are even a bit in the background and also sound somewhat thin, however neither hollow nor low resolving.
    The middle treble is audible less in the background with the green filter; the upper treble at 8 kHz shows a distinct peak which is however still humane and not too sizzling or piercing as long as one isn’t listening at very loud volume levels. Nonetheless, sibilance is more emphasised and some recordings get the tendency to be a bit annoying and hot.
    For lovers of v-shaped signatures, this filter combination might be well-suited.
     
    05FRred-black-green.jpg


    06: Clear/Clear/Gold:
    This filter combination is one of the recommended in the quick-start guide and is labelled as “Vocal” – for reason, as it really is a signature that focusses on voices.
    The bass is rather lean and mostly neutral, at least in the upper midbass, upper bass as well as lower and upper root area. In the middle fundamental tone, there is a minor emphasis; the bass starts evenly rolling off from about 50 Hz.
    The mids are in the foreground with this tuning, with a preference of the upper midrange, wherefore this filter combination is well-suited for female vocals. Male singers however sound a bit thin.
    The treble is identical to the first (Grey/Grey/Gold) tuning.
    For tracks with mainly female singers, this tuning is recommendable if one wants to bring out the voices some more.
     
    06FRclear-clear-gold.jpg


    07: Grey/Clear/Gunmetal:
    This is the filter combination that I see as reference tuning for the FLC8s, and as somebody who loves neutral sound and sees the Etymotic ER-4s as the best example of how neutral tonality should be (the ER-4S is even closer to ideal neutrality than my custom-moulded UERM), I can also say that the FLC sounds pretty neutral with this filter combination and comes quite close to ER-4S’ tonal tuning.
    Upper bass, midbass plus the lower fundamental tone are very marginally more present than with a Clear/Clear/Gunmetal combination which however suffers from a moderate sub-bass roll-off, wherefore I see the Grey/Clear/Gunmetal filter combination as the more reference-like. Otherwise sound is free from any unnecessary warmth and the bass is very even, “flat”, without real emphasis.
    The mids are pretty spot-on and tonally correct in my ears, without colouration.
    The middle treble is somewhat in the background as well, however very slightly less than with the gold filter and therefore seems a bit less relaxed. With this filter combination, the upper treble is also just very slightly, though inconspicuously above the ground-line.
    For a rather sterile, very neutral sound, this filter combination is quite ideal (and I personally love it).
     
    07FRgrey-clear-gunmetal.jpg


    For the following comparisons, I used the first and seventh filter combination most of the time.

    Resolution:

    The resolution capabilities of this in-ear are simply stunningly high for the price and I go that far to say that the FLC8s can compete with my UERM in the midrange and treble department without problems. In the highs, the UE is very slightly more differentiated plus refined and also a bit more realistic despite its peak (in comparison, the FLC sounds slightly constrained/dull in the upper treble), but in the mids both in-ears are about on-par and honestly speaking the FLC8s sounds even more detailed in the vocal area, as it reveals more minute details while sounding very easy-going, precise and natural. Even after about two months of almost daily use, these in-ears still manage to positively impress me with their very good technical capabilities and detailed, silky midrange. Tiny details in the treble and mids are no problem for the FLC8s and fine details are presented and revealed in a very easy-going, natural way. I guess I don’t even have to mention that speech intelligibility is extremely high, as that should be clear from the context.
    In the lows, it looks a bit different, but that is simply because of the different driver types: although FLC8s’ bass is very fast and precise, it doesn’t reach the precision, control and details of UERM’s Balanced Armature driver when very fast and complex tracks are being played. FLC8s’ bass character is quite typical for a (really good) dynamic driver and it is not too hard to tell that it is no BA woofer, but on the other hand, this dynamic woofer driver is very detailed on its own and sometimes, especially with less complex and rather slow music, it is quite difficult to say whether it is a dynamic or BA driver, although the bass doesn’t stand in the room straight to the point but is a bit more space-filling.
    What Forrest Wei has created hare is a really detailed, technically very capable and brilliant in-ear that has enormous cohesion between the three drivers which harmonise perfectly together, so that the dynamic driver fits in perfectly and doesn’t appear even at the slightest negatively but just somewhat more corporeal and less “sterile”.

    Soundstage:

    The sole area where the FLC8s could yet fail is the soundstage, but it also copes with this discipline with ease: FLC8s’ soundstage is quite large in terms of lateral expansion and about comparable with the one of my UERM. Therefore, width is also somewhat wider than DN-2000J’s stage (though not by much). There is also a good amount of depth, though it is just about one quarter less distinct than width, wherefore soundstage isn’t as deep/almost bottomless like the DUNU’s or UE’s. When it is about three-dimensional presentation and naturalness, the FLC leaves a very positive impression and sounds harmonious.
    Regarding instrument separation and spatial precision, the in-ears are technically really strong, as single elements, even if they are yet so small, are super precisely separated – almost as precisely as with the UERM. And as a result, the FLC8s even manages to separate and place instruments slightly more precisely than the DN-2000J which already does a really good job here.

    ---------

    In Comparison with other Hybrid In-Ears with three-Drivers-three-Ways-Configuration:

    Oriveti Primacy:
    The Oriveti Primacy is a really good and convincing hybrid in-ear with a smooth yet detailed and (in a very positive way) non-exciting sound as well as superb build quality. When it is about sonic strengths, the Primacy comes very close to the DN-2000J, which speaks for its sound quality. However, the FLC8s manages to unveil even more details in the midrange and treble, in addition FLC’s dynamic woofer is even better and more cohesively integrated to the system as it is almost just as good as its two brilliant BA drivers for the mids/highs (Primacy’s lows are very slightly less detailed than its mids and highs although sound is harmonious and coherent, too).
    FLC8s’ soundstage is a bit wider than Oriveti’s and has especially got somewhat more depth. In terms of instrument separation, -placement as well as spatial precision, the FLC is also the winner.

    DUNU DN_2000J:
    The DN-2000J is an extremely good in-ear and convinces inter alia with its special bass which is both very fast and precise as well as tactile and has a gorgeous body at the same time (its lows’ qualities are quite similar to my Audeze LCD-X’s). On top, midrange and treble resolution are excellent.
    Well, the FLC8s reveals even a bit more details than the DUNU and also has got a minimally faster bass which is more arid too, although DN-2000J’s is already really good for a hybrid in-ear. What the FLC however doesn’t adopt is DUNU’s woofer’s special character which is albeit something very unique for itself – in exchange, FLC8s is overall sonically and technically the somewhat better and slightly more refined, detailed in-ear.
    FLC8s’ soundstage is a bit wider than DUNU’s, however less deep. In terms of spatial presentation and instrument separation, the FLC is somewhat more precise, with instruments that are very cleanly placed and sharply separated from each other – even more than DN-2000J’s.

    UPQ Q-music QE80 (OEM Version of the Fidue A83):
    Without any doubt, the FLC8s is the more versatile IEM with its theoretically possible 36 different tonal tunings, but will always have less fundamental warmth than the QE80.
    The FLC, of which I think is overall very slightly better than the DUNU, also surpasses the UPQ. The FLC8s has got the faster and more arid lows than the QE80, which on the other hand puts out the nicer bass body (this however goes at the expense of speed). When it is about resolution, the FLC is somewhat better as well, even in the midrange.
    Solely QE80’s upper treble sounds a bit more natural and realistic as it is more broad-banded.
    The FLC’s soundstage is slightly wider, with about identical depth. In terms of spatial precision, the in-ear with 36 faces wins as well.
    Victory (however not a big one) of the FLC8s in every aspect expect for upper treble naturalness.


    Conclusion:

    The FLC8s is not only an extremely good hybrid in-ear but also definitely a hybrid flagship. The in-ears are very convincing with their precision, soundstage, resolution (especially in the midrange – vocals sound so clear, detailed and realistic that they even slightly beat my UERM’s) as well as versatility. Surely the knowledge of having 36 potential sound signatures is really cool, however realistically seen, one will more likely have up to four filter combinations that are probably slightly tweaked from time to time. One also has to be careful with the any filigree filters, as they can be lost easily given how small they are – in this regard the FLC8s is more an in-ear for enthusiasts than a product that is suitable for the masses, but I personally find it good that way as it shows how much is technically possible with the various filters.
    What unfortunately doesn’t fit to the sound which can be almost seen as being on the same level as the UERM is the cable which is very microphonic for a model of its kind.


    Sonically this in-ear scores 5 out of 5 stars with brilliant ease – with a 70%-sound-to-30%-rest-weighting however, the FLC8s “only” manages to score 4.5 out of 5 stars, which is quite sad, as with a less microphonic but more flexible cable, this would be unquestionably a 5/5 product. But even so, the in-ears get a really distinct recommendation for their sonic qualities and two thumbs up.
    canali, Raketen, leobigfield and 14 others like this.
  9. kevingzw
    4.5/5,
    "A Diamond in the Rough"
    Pros - Unbelievable Coherence, Distinct Airiness, Endless Customization/Tunable Options, Lightweight and Solid Construction, Aluminium Carrying Case
    Cons - Tuning Ports/Filters are fragile, Tedious Tuning
    Before I start on my endless tirade on this hidden gem, allow me to make a formal introduction.
     
     
    My Formal Introduction
     
    I'm a 19 year old (coming 20) Singaporean Student waiting to serve my Mandatory Army Service. I grew up captivated by music and its divergent genres. From subversive punk (The Germs, Black Flag) to the Mellow Jazz Cats (Miles Davis, John Coltrane), I was always fond of music history and the preceding factors that led to the formation of several bands and genres. Ever since my brother brought me to Jaben in its glory days (in a crummy, old warehouse with a pile of imported iems), I started to stick my itchy fingers into the personal audio market. I'm no audiophile, but I'm just here to give my two cents on products that I find far more than capable at a suitable price. I despise the lifeless sound of a Balanced Armature on its own. The unnaturally faux left to right soundstage and the rigid/dry bass response always irked me. Hybrids and Dynamic Drivers will and always be the top tier transducer/combinations in my heart. 
     
     
    Alittle Bit of Backstory
     
    FLC Technology is a company based in Guangdong, China. Opened by Forrest Wei (correct me if I'm wrong), a industry regular that has worked with the likes of UE and Jabra, the FLC 8 is their first foray into the Universal IEM Market. Launching their first CIEM in 2011, FLC Technology hopes to make a name for itself in a congested IEM Market. The FLC 8S is an exact cut/copy replica of the FLC 8, provided with a 4-braid SPC Cable instead of the poorly sheathed cable by its predecessor. Forrest believes that the consumer should have a say in the sound signature of any IEM, hence the provision of tunable filters.
     
    The FLC 8S is a hybrid in-ear monitor, with a 2 Balanced Armature + Dynamic Driver (3 Way Crossover) configuration. The FLC 8S boasts a whopping 36 tunable options, setting itself apart from the competition. China is making a name for itself in an already crowded IEM market dominated by the big three (Shure, Audio Technica and Westone). I'm proud to report that the FLC 8S is a top tier contender that blows the competition out of the water. They are a diamond in the rough, a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
     
     
    Build Quality/Accessories
     
    Right off the bat, the lavish wooden box looks downright expensive. FLC definitely went out of its way to package the product beautifully. Inside the box, we have several eartips (S,M,L), a anodized aluminium rounded case (this sh*t is built like a tank) and a keychain carrying the different filters and nozzles. The accessories provided are impeccable and feel almost premium, rivaling the likes of the Shure SE846. Gotta give a shoutout to FLC for giving us a premium package at an affordable price point.
     
    Moving on to the IEM's, they look almost alien-like. The driver-housing or the actual body of the IEM's are shaped like curved S's, with a glossy finish. There are several ports or tiny holes to allow the user to interchange filters and try out a variant of sound signatures. Apart from the outlandish appearance (at first), the IEM's are feather-light with negative profile. The flushed fit and lightweight housing provided me with a comfortable listening experience. It's as if the FLC 8S melds with the ear to become a unified body. I've used them for over 3 hours straight with no signs of discomfort or fatigue. They feel solid in the hand and I have no doubt's that they were built to last for a long time.
     
    The cable termination is a recessed 2 pin connector (the UE Triple -fi connectors), which are easily user replaced. Having said that, the stock 4-braid SPC cables provided marked a significant improvement compared to its predecessor, which provided a rubber-sheathed cable with stiff strain reliefs and a bad tendency to clump into a giant ball. They are easily pliable and the memory wire offsets the weight off the IEM onto them, acting as a strain relief.
     
    I have to say, I am duly impressed by the overall build and accessories provided.
     
     
    Sound Quality
     
    I have to say, these IEM's are absolutely stellar. Admittedly, these are IEM's are ever changing chameleons, with 36 tunable options that leaves the user baffled by its ability to adapt. I for one, value my time and choose not to review every single combination. Having said that, the combination I have utilized centers around a heavy low end, distinct mid range and medium high frequency (minor filtering). Do take note that the tuning process has a steep learning curve. Time and patience must be exercised to find a suitable combination that meets your tastes. Its time for me to dive head first into the delicate art of finding the right "sound".
     
    [​IMG]
    Credits to Lendmeurears for the image
     
    Nozzles
    - Black Filter: Medium Mid Range and High Frequency
    - Green Filter: Medium Mid Range and Most High Frequency
    - Blue Filter: Medium Mid Range and Least High Frequency 
    - Gold Filter: Most Mid Range and Medium High Frequency
     
    Rubber Stoppers (white, black grey)
    - White Stopper: Medium Bass
    - Clear Stopper: Least Bass
    - Black Stopper: Most Bass
     
    Rubber Thumbtacks (lol)
    - Clear: Least Subbass
    - Black: Medium Subbass
    - Red: Most Subbass
     
    As you can see, the art of finding the right sound can be tedious. It makes for a fun project though. Be wary that the intricate filters are tiny and easily lost. Thankfully, Lendmeurears Singapore stocks replacement filters at a reasonable price.
     
    As of now, I'm utilizing the Gold Nozzle => Black Stopper => Red Thumbtack Configuration. It focuses primarily on a creamy mid range, smooth highs with ample detail and a airy bassline. 
     
    The FLC 8S left me floored. Balanced Armatures are known for their distinctly sharp mid range, extended highs and accurate/rigid response. The addition of an 8.6mm Dynamic Driver offsets the weaknesses of the 2 Balanced Armatures by providing a robust bassline and superb subbass decay. What boggles my mind is the coherence of it all. I believe that transient smearing and the use of 3-4 balanced armatures with no dynamic driver results in an incoherent, artificial sound that feels vastly separated. The unnatural left-right channel separation (faux soundstage) and crummy low-end response doesn't leave me satisfied. This is certainly not the case for these hybrid badboys. 
     
    The Gold Nozzle tames the highs and smoothens the peaks, but it does it in such a way where the highs aren't sibilant and provide just enough detail. With tracks such as Charles Mingus's Moanin, the baritone saxophone barely loses detail and in fact sounds almost natural (apart from minor smoothing)
     
    The Midrange is rich, easily distinguishable and detail heavy, with a non-fatiguing wet sound that avoids the harsh trebles and sharp mid-ranges commonly associated with balanced armatures. It provides for a non-fatiguing listen for any genre. It's even listenable with the sharpest of treble-heavy genres such as Hardcore Punk. That is an achievement on itself.
     
    The low end is the highlight of the FLC 8S that separates the men from the boys. Using the Black Stoppers and Red Thumbtacks, the sumptuous low end proves to be well controlled, with a tight midbass response and sublime subbass decay. Most importantly, the bass in my opinion, doesn't bleed into the mid range at all, leaving us with a fun/controlled bass response that faithfully captures the air and stage presence of any given recording.The FLC 8S is a forgiving IEM, even with 128kbps MP3 Files.
     
     
    In Conclusion
     
    The FLC 8S is a representation of Chinese innovation. Over the years, I have seen the growth of many a Chinese Audio Company, each trying to tap into the Southeast Asian market. Some companies left me impressed (Vsonic, Havi) but nothing blew me away. The FLC 8S has done just that. Their penchant for perfection in sound, build and customization is a testament to Chinese quality. I would've given them a perfect score, if not for the fragile tuning components. I certainly hope that people give the FLC 8S's a shot and be mesmerized by their sound.
    Dopaminer, B9Scrambler and hqssui like this.
  10. originalsnuffy
    4.5/5,
    "Detailed, open sound. Massively customizable. "
    Pros - Sound can be fine tuned to listener preference. High fidelity at reasonable price point.
    Cons - Difificult to insert filters. Easy to lose filters. Moderately easy to get ear fit but not dead simple. Tuning could be "overkill" for some.
    I had the pleasure of listening to the FLC8S for about 10 days. 
     
    I listened to these on a FIIO X3 Gen II, a Shanling M2, and the venerable iphone 6S.   My comparison is to LZ-A2 using Comply foam tips, Phonak Audeo PFE-022 with black filters and Comply foam tips, and Carbo Tenore using stock tips. 
     
    I listened to a wide variety of music, including Rock, Jazz, and Classical.  Something that surprised me was that I could listen to all varieties of music with these and get a pleasurable experience.  Normally I reserve the Phonaks for classical, where bass is not as important and musical accuracy is important.  But with these I was very happy no matter the source material.
     
    They sounded very good with all players, but were especially terrific with the Shanling M2.  The Shanling is a very neutral and clear sounding unit, and really brought out the best in these earphones.
     
    I found myself noticing the clarity of instruments, yet easy shifted to simply enjoying hi res music.  There is a reason these IEM units have developed a buzz; it is simply not just hype. The detachable cables can come loose fairly easily, so I would be careful with the units when used in public areas.  I stuck mainly to the blue cables though I did try the other two cables that were in box.  Somehow I preferred the blue cable comfort and stuck with those.
     
    My overall conclusion is that these provides an exception level of audio quality with a high degree of customization.   I mainly fiddled with the low bass, as I was very happy with the stock tunings. The effect was subtle but helpful to add sub bass.
     
    It is interesting to me that most other reviewers of this headphone also seem to go with the stock tunings, with the possible exception of adding more sub bass.  That is because these IEM units have an essential “rightness” to them right out of the box.  
     
    Customizing these IEM units is not super easy.  As other have mentioned, the small rubbery plastic inserts are difficult to manipulate and go flying about.  I would suggest working on a clear table and not over carpet.  Pieces can and will go missing.  I ended up using the tweezers to remove the tuning devices but put them in by finger. 
     
    My overall suggestion is that the manufacturer consider offering a cost reduced version of these with the base neutral tunings with the exception of somewhat tweaked sub bass.   I think a more basic version with this sound signature at the right place could become a monster product.  I realize the tunability put the manufacturer on the map, but now that they have a name I would readily purchase a cheaper, less tunable version. 
     
    I would also suggest studying the fit of the Carbo Tenore, which somehow gets the sound right in a very comfortable to wear format.
     
    These are exceptional IEM units and my sense is that improvements on these will ultimately be about fit, comfort, and price and not about sound quality.
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