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CustomArt FIBAE Impressions Thread

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  1. subguy812
    I would like to say that while the details and clarity are very apparent in the CA prototype, there is a also a mild congestion possibly in the upper mids region. It is more noticable with more involved, full music, ie. Prog or Rock, and less prevalent in acoustic or jazz. Particularly jazz that has a lot of air around the notes. Airy or open music sounds phenomenal.

    The other area that could be improved upon is 8n the extension in the lower bass, sub bass region. The amount of sub bass is very similar to the FIBAE 3.
    piotrus-g likes this.
  2. subguy812
    Tomorrow, I will post some thoughts on cable options and sources. I have had great response while listening to the balanced output, QP2R and DX120, and pairing with the 8-wire Ares II.
    piotrus-g likes this.
  3. Deezel177
    Glad to hear the discussions we had via PM helped inform your impressions of the mystery IEM, Troy. I won’t be posting my own impressions ‘til tomorrow, but I have a pretty good feeling we won’t be far off from each other after all. :wink:
    subguy812 likes this.
  4. subguy812
    Daniel Thank you for isolating the range of any congestion...I heard congestion in music the likes of Dream Theater, but couldn't isolate where it was. I was wondering if the culprit may have been my source. At least you have heard it as well. It is not bad, but in contrast to other genres acoustic and jazz there is a slight jumble.
    You have a far greater collection of cables than I do I am curious to see if you feel it responds to upgraded cables as well as the FIBAE offerings. I really liked the 8-wire Ares II pairing.

    I also want to break out the F3 again after hearing this prototype. It is diffict to say if the proto bests the ME in overall signature

    I can drive them with my cellphone but the volume is maxed.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2018
    Deezel177 likes this.
  5. iranonfr
  6. Deezel177
    I tried to take a photo that was a play on the colour Piano Black… but then I realised my piano was an hour’s flight away in my Singapore flat. So, Aluminium… Snare… Black, then? :p

    IEM (3).jpg

    As you may or may not know, Custom Art recently sent out a mystery prototype to 10 selected reviewers. I was fortunate enough to be one of them and I'd like to massively thank @piotrus-g for the opportunity. Without further adieu, here are my impressions:

    Piotr didn’t want us to comment necessarily on packaging and build, but I must say, I am in mad love with his choice of pure gloss black. It’s in contention with the Avara Custom AV2 as the classiest, most illustrious in-ears in my collection, and I wouldn’t be surprised if these were similarly 3D-printed as well. :wink: Fit and finish have been where Custom Art’s grown most over the years - aside from sound quality, of course - and I’m glad to see that train ain’t stopping anytime soon.

    Now, onto sound…

    The most striking component of this in-ear’s sonic arsenal is undoubtedly its stage. Width, depth and height all mark career highs for Custom Art, now joining the likes of 64Audio, Lime Ears and Empire in not only sheer volume, but also how well the stage itself is structured - because golly gee… in terms of instrument placement, stability and stereo separation, this thing goes where no Custom Art IEM has gone before. Piotr has certainly taken previous criticisms to heart and worked hard on treble extension and linearity, resulting in this in-ear’s rock-solid, spherical stage with equal expansion, holography and stability on all three axes. With warmer CA IEMs, I’ve become accustomed to full-sounding soundscapes with saturated stages, so to hear one this stable, open and refined and natural in tone was a welcome, welcome surprise. Instruments are placed along a superbly-defined perimeter with sufficient space between them and the listener to properly breathe and decay. But, they’re also just close enough to remain musical and engaging at the same time.

    Now, it isn’t as grand in scale as Unique Melody's Maestro V3 or 64Audio's A18t, but it doesn’t compromise in tone as much as they do either. The upper-treble is kept relatively linear for a softer, refined response, but it’s clear, articulate and airy as well. It’s a response that sits somewhere between the UE18+ Pro Gen. 2 and the Lime Ears Model X; the refinement and effortlessness of the former mixed in with the vibrance of the latter. In the grand scheme of things, this produces a balanced and clear tone within the well-founded stage, with just a hint of warmth for naturalness’ sake. And, because treble extension takes care of resolution, Piotr needs neither an egregious lower-mid dip, nor a mid-bass cut nor an upper-treble peak to generate headroom - resulting in a marriage of modern technical prowess and Custom Art’s signature, wholesome sound. If I were to con spatial performance in any way, I’d mention the black background. The background as is is dark and stable - again, because of wonderful treble extension - but notes above 5kHz tend to decay rather slowly. So, very minute traces of brightness trail each and every note. To me, quickening treble decay would make the background flawless, but it’s excellent as is if it were to compete in the sub-$1500 market.


    Down low, I massively admire the in-ear’s balance between clarity and tone. It’s a lightly warm response, but there’s a melodic character to the bass that gives it a leg up beyond just being a punch machine. It’s resolving enough to discern different types of kick drums and several-layers’ worth of bass lines in pop and rock, while kick drums and upright basses in jazz benefit massively from the low-end's sing-songy nature. There’s a transparency to the tone that isn’t just the boring, one-dimensional warmth. It sounds to me like it’s caused by very low distortion, allowing the low-end response that’s been baked into the mix to come through with minimal coloration or loss in detail.

    Not to be outdone, impact and punch both satisfy as well. Mid-bass quantity is levelled just right to inject dynamic energy to more uptempo genres of music, but the stage is kept remarkably clean. Sub-bass performance, unfortunately, is where the low-end falters a tad. You can definitely hear the sub-bass in tracks like Eminem’s Lucky You, but there’s a clear lack of oomph and force to it. It’s not a quantity issue at all, because the tone’s there, so it’s certainly a matter of extension. Plus, to the detriment of the in-ear’s open stage, this lack of fundamental rumble can sometimes render tracks like Lucky You sounding a bit empty; requiring the listener to pump up the volume just to achieve proper saturation, which isn’t ideal. If Piotr can improve bass extension to add more physicality to the bass without raising quantity, that would be the perfect scenario. Alternatively, raising the bass below 100Hz may compensate for the lack of presence, but it may also compromise the cleanliness and composure of the stage, as well as the tone and clarity of the mid-bass.


    As per usual with Custom Art’s in-ear monitors, the midrange comes with forwardness and intimacy. There’s certainly a tilt towards the centre-and-upper mids (around 1-4kHz), but a linear rise from 1kHz onwards give instruments a sense of body, density and authority. In fact, those aspects are what impressed me most. Coming back to Eminem’s Lucky You, the track was mixed with a heavy, heavy emphasis on bass, to the point where Eminem’s vocals are almost drowned out. This is particularly true with IEMs that recess the lower-mids excessively and end up sounding thin and diffuse. Thankfully, this monitor avoids that pitfall. Eminem’s voice - no matter how little space it takes in the overall soundscape - is reproduced with such solidity, power and resolution that you never lose track of it throughout the duration of the track. It’s a really impressive showcase considering the vibrance of the in-ear's bass too, and it’ll surely please vocal enthusiasts to no end.

    But, there is a crucial flaw in my eyes concerning the upper-midrange. To my ears, the 2-4kHz range is close to - if not the - loudest frequency range throughout the in-ear’s entire response. Although this makes instruments sound more vibrant and present, it also causes them to sound noticeably saturated; almost as if there’s no air between the vocalist and the microphone. It’s an effect you can somewhat replicate by heavily loudening and compressing a mix, and it causes the lead melody to sound distractingly full; almost as if it’s overtly compressed on its own while everything else breathes just fine. So, hearing this, I used an EQ to dip 2-4kHz (with 3kHz being the centre of the dip) by 3dB… and the results were spec-tac-u-lar. Not only did the honky-ness and saturation go away, but it also revealed the vocal range’s true technical prowess. The instruments themselves sounded more effortless, refined and airy. At the same time, this effortlessness and headroom allows the listener to more easily catch nuances and micro-details as they pass by. And to top it all off, the solidity and authority I mentioned earlier isn’t sacrificed at all. In fact, it’s what allows the lead melody to hold a firm grip on centre stage even with the upper-mid dip; Eminem’s still coming through loud and clear. It’s almost like the difference between tasting food while you’re gasping for air and doing so while calm. In the latter scenario, you can discern (and savour) infinitely more flavours and textures than the former.

    And flavours and textures it has in spades! This mystery IEM is a step-up in resolution and transparency than all of Piotr’s previous in-ears; even the FIBAE 3. This is because of this in-ear’s superior background and natural tone. The almost-pitch-black ambience allows transients and nuances to pop, and the linear upper-treble makes way for an immensely natural tone. Taken with the 2-4kHz dip, I’d say it competes with the likes of the Warbler Audio Prelude and the Kumitate Lab Corona, but with higher resolution and spatial definition. Technically, layering, separation and speed are all excellent without the need for thinness or brightness - another sign of true, well-executed resolve. Again, that 2-4kHz dip is crucial, crucial, crucial! Because when applied, it unlocks everything this IEM is truly capable of and solidifies its potential as top, top class.


    The treble is probably where I take least issue with this in-ear. Right away, linearity and extension are both excellent. There’s a small 8kHz peak, but it isn’t anywhere near as noticeable as the one on the Harmony 8.2 (possibly the FIBAE ME as well, but I can’t recall). So, transients are much less grainy and powder-y. Rather, they’re articulate and clear, but superbly smooth. It articulates in a manner that isn’t far from a properly-paired and run-in Phantom, but transients here are a touch sharper and brighter because of where the peak is placed. Personally, if some manipulation of the dampers or driver placement were allowed, I’d move the peak closer towards 6-7kHz. Because, I think peaks there result in a more rounded, natural, and refined transient, rather than the grainier and tizzy-er sound of 8kHz. The upper-treble is a massive achievement as well for Piotr and co.; natural in tone, superbly and stably extended, and perfectly positioned. It sits a hair behind the lead melody, so cymbals crash energetically, yet headroom and composure are both pristinely preserved. As I mentioned earlier, simply quickening the decay here and getting rid of the brighter harmonics would render it a perfect treble for this monitor to my ears.

    Conclusion… for now

    I think this monitor is a true step-up from Custom Art in nearly every conceivable way. A/B-ing between the Harmony 8.2 and this has revealed just how much Piotr’s grown in treble tuning, bass technicality, and staging and organisation especially. At its price, the Harmony 8.2 is still a great, laid-back IEM, but I’d be lying through my teeth if I didn’t say I much, much, much preferred this new prototype. It’s an excellent performer in bass clarity and tone, midrange structure and authority, treble extension and coherence, and spatial resolution. Sonically, I'd probably guess this was a 5-to-6-driver IEM that would compete massively in the US$1200-1500 price range against the 64Audio A6t, Lime Ears Model X and the Jomo Audio Tango. I think there are definitely improvements to be made in bass extension and upper-midrange tuning (with only very minor gripes in the lower-treble and background blackness), but I have a strong feeling this IEM will truly set Custom Art high on the market. Congrats @piotrus-g, you've got a real winner on your hands here. :wink:

    P.S. Stay tuned over the next coming days for cable pair-ups, comparisons and more. Cheers! :D
  7. piotrus-g
    Thank you Daniel, that is way and far more detailed feedback that I have ever expected and asked for. I really really appreciate it

    To address fitting/build - those weren't 3D printed yet - still hand built.
  8. Deezel177
    Thank you as well, Piotr! Might as well call your team machines in that case. :D
    subguy812 likes this.
  9. subguy812
    We have all grown to expect nothing less from Daniel.
    davidmolliere and Blommen like this.
  10. PinkyPowers

    I too have been GREATLY enjoying the Custom Art prototype these last few days.

    I concur with what's been said so far. These are VERY musical. The bass is outstanding in tone and timbre. Very satisfying. Based on sound and the venting port, I assume it is a dynamic driver dedicated to low-end, and maybe some mid-range coverage as well. Maybe. :wink: But these isolate WAY better than any dynamic I've heard, and there's zero driver flex. So that confuses me. It is possible Piotr achieved this wondrous bass with BAs... I suppose. But damn, it doesn't sound like any BA I've heard. The bass could be a little much for purists, but I love it. While I guess sub-bass could get a little more attention, I really like it's current tuning, and wouldn't change it too much.

    The mid range is lush and romantic. I love those descriptors when they suit the situation, and they very much do here. As others have pointed out, however, there's more congestion than I'd like. The Shanling M5s I'm using doesn't have an EQ (that I've found) so I haven't been able to verify Daniel's assessment that 2k-3K is to blame. But I trust his VAST experience with mixing when he says it is. :)

    The Highs are superbly smooth and natural, extending beautifully and articulating the depth and atmosphere of the recording at a very high level. This is TOTL kind of performance, seen also in the soundstage and element separation. I am impressed.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2018
  11. piotrus-g
    Thank you @PinkyPowers for your feedback. I really appreciate it. I was really looking forward to your opinion about the bass because I know your preferences, so I'm happy to see they mostly meet your expectations, especially, in regards to quantity.
    Deezel177 and PinkyPowers like this.
  12. PinkyPowers
    During the first 30 minutes, I didn't actually like the bass. It seemed shouty, or honky, as I described it to Troy. But it rounded out nicely after a little while, and now I really enjoy it. :D
    Deezel177 likes this.
  13. Deezel177
    The melodiousness of the bass is the most interesting part. You can almost hear musically what note the kick drum is playing, which is bizarre. :D But, as an engineer, I appreciate that amount of detail and resolve - especially in the bass where my ears are probably weakest when mixing.
    davidmolliere and PinkyPowers like this.
  14. piotrus-g
    Again, I will try to refrain on commenting on sound qualities to avoid influencing your opinions - but once again I appreciate the feedback. Thank you.
    I promise once we officially reveal what this IEM is I will be more than happy to go over technical details and our sound objective.
  15. cocolinho
    @piotrus-g any date for the official release?
    Thank you
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