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Any comparisons with the fibae massdrop version, or is it a little early for that?
Prototypes don't usually have official release dates. Only once CA has locked down the design and tuning can Piotr set a hard date.
I agree..the bass detail is all there, but the tone is delightful. The sub bass for example is existent in EDM, but on a heavy bass song like By the Way, Red Hot Chili Peppers or 7 Nation Army it never overwhelms or approaches anything close to distortion, could possibly do with a bit more quantity if it doesn't impede quality. The tone of the bass seems to separate it from other IEMs with same quantity of bass.
I'll have to give some thought to that. But I will say, they aren't terribly different.
Not at the moment, we are looking into early next year
Awesome early reviews for the protoype.. I would assume it is the FB4? Hoping to hear it during CanJam next year in SG!
Piotr's mystery IEM's finally made it to Australia and I've been giving them a listen since this morning. Here are my preliminary thoughts (and a rushed photograph):
Custom Art's Mystery IEM has a very interesting sound signature with a warm tone and full note body but also reasonable balance throughout on behalf of its forward vocals and lightly emphasized lower-treble; to clarify, It's reasonably mellow but woken up by emphasis at 3 and 6KHz. It reminds of the ME to a certain degree though it is less bassy, especially within the mid-bass which makes its low-end sound quite a bit cleaner than that model. On the contrary, its top end is darker and from initial impression does not appear to have the same extension. I also do not perceive the same soundstage expansion, Piotr’s Mystery IEM offering an impressively rounded but only moderately expanded stage, possibly due to the difference in middle and upper-treble tuning? I feel it’s too early to say anything with certainty at this time.
To my ear, this IEM seems to have fairly average sub-bass extension. Despite the housing being vented, I’m fairly convinced it’s a BA configuration due to its quick decay and definition. Still, the quality does impress and it certainly doesn’t lack bass with moderate emphasis throughout its low-end. Control stands out, with the IEM delivering a very punchy mid-bass and an especially enhanced upper-bass that greatly contributes to its generally full-bodied presentation. What’s quite refreshing about this IEM is its male vocal performance which is something I find to be neglected on many IEMs that prioritise bass/midrange separation over linearity. This is not the case here, Piotr’s latest IEM has slightly forward male vocals and they are flattered with accurate body and pleasing clarity. They’re also quite balanced with female vocals that avoid being too forward while upholding delicacy and a modest level of clarity.
This is a quality stemming from a gradual rise to a 3KHz peak after which the earphone begins a gradual decline that further increases midrange body and smoothness. As the 4KHz attenuation is gradual, vocals never sound truncated and midrange extension is quite good, however, clarity isn’t especially high either which is especially noticeable on older recordings. Meanwhile, contemporary genres, especially Asian pop, are more flattered as they are mastered with additional clarity. Its midrange isn’t neutral, hyper-separated or hyper-revealing, but it is very coherent and notes are complete without a hint of over-articulation or dryness.
Treble sits behind in the mix overall, but it's never overshadowed as the earphone has a small 6KHz hump (but not what I would classify necessarily as a peak). This redeems clarity and aids note attack, producing a rather crisp portrayal of cymbals and guitar strums. Middle treble is attenuated to my ear. As such, this earphone does not have much air and upper-treble doesn’t appear to be especially present either so sparkle is subdued as well. It’s a very clean earphone in return and one quality that stands out, perhaps as a result or due to other factors, is its midrange layering. This IEM has a clear delineation between its vocals and instruments while upholding accurate placement of both, most notably with regards to its very strong centre image.
Early Verdict -
It was only until after I had formed my own impressions that I allowed myself to read other’s impressions. Perhaps my ears have become too accustomed to the Campfire Audio Solaris that I’ve been listening to recently (which has a clearly bright upper-treble). I keep listening for a magically expanded soundstage, but I don’t hear it. Similarly, that housing vent would suggest a dynamic driver, but the bass on this IEM still sounds like a BA to me, albeit a very well done warm/punchy BA tuning. That’s not to say that I’m pessimistic about this IEM and I also have to entertain the possibility of Piotr sending out different IEMs; as aforementioned my unit still has some strong qualities.
Specifically, its male vocal performance and midrange layering. In addition, its rounded presentation prevents over-forwardness of midrange elements and its imaging is terrific. Its treble is crisp and well-detailed while never encroaching on a hint of brightness. Moreover, despite being tuned for cleanliness and smoothness neither its upper-midrange or lower-treble sound truncated, delivering ample female vocal extension and openness in addition to what I would consider to be accurate treble instrument shimmer and decay. Despite not being airy or sparkly, this earphone nonetheless has heaps of atmosphere. This is certainly one of the more interesting IEM's I've heard lately and I look forward to spending much more time with it.
Taken from my blog!
HYPED! Been looking into the Solaris but that fact that its a universal-only kinda bums me out. Been a big fan of CustomArt sound signature: Owing both F2 and F3, I really do like the tuning (especially the spatial cues of the F2) but I still do wish the resolution could be much higher. Hope that this new prototype would be top-tier in terms of technicality and I'll be all over it!
Hehe. Piotr, you evil bastard! You have us all guessing.
For everyone planning on getting themselves a new IEM during the holidays, maybe hold onto a little something for when these are finalized early next year.
I've spent the past couple days comparing Custom Art's mystery prototype against their most recent releases (bar the FIBAE ME and FIBAE 1, which I'm sure my fellow colleagues will cover) and these are the impressions that have come up from it. Enjoy!
vs. Custom Art FIBAE 2
The FIBAE 2 and the prototype are probably the furthest apart in technical performance. The clearest discrepancy between the two is in midrange resolution and background blackness.The FIBAE 2 is rather diffuse-sounding because of an evident 3-4kHz dip, so the majority of vocal energy lies in the chesty 2kHz range. The prototype has the opposite problem, where a peak at 3kHz leaves it sounding rather saturated. Ideally, I’d love the prototype's 3kHz peak attenuated, but not to the extent of the FIBAE 2. As we’ll explore soon with the FIBAE 3 and the Harmony 8.2, the common distinction that the prototype has over its siblings is its black background and stage organisation. Of the four, the prototype has the cleanest, most stable stage despite its relatively laid-back treble. Clearly, this is because of treble extension. Unfortunately, the FIBAE 2 - like the Harmony 8.2 - rolls off around 10kHz, so its ambience is warm and euphonic, which limits its resolution, transparency and dynamic range relative to the prototype. Additionally, its mid-bass comes across less controlled as well. The FIBAE 2’s low-end has always been known for its fun-factor and warmth, but the prototype certainly takes the cake in clarity, layering and tone. Despite my love for the FIBAE 2 as a value proposition, the prototype simply outclasses it for me in technical performance and tonal balance. The latter’s vocal presence, clarity, spatial properties and bass quality simply make it a better IEM by a significant margin. I believe our time is better spent discussing the next couple comparisons in further detail.
vs. Custom Art FIBAE 3
The largest discrepancy between the two in-ears is timbre. Besides being a tad brighter in tone, the FIBAE 3 has crisper transients and thinner notes. This is because of its upper-treble lift and its subdued mid-bass. The prototype has a much fuller, richer low-end, which gives its instruments a thicker, bolder profile. However, the prototype actually has more solid articulation, because of the FIBAE 3’s noticeable 5kHz dip. So, open hi-hats for example sound like a proper tshhh tshhh on the prototype, while they sound like a diffuse ffff ffff on the FIBAE 3. Down low, the prototype’s bass slams harder and decays a touch more too, while its melodic-ness gives bass instruments more character and three-dimensionality in tone as well. Again, the FIBAE 3’s peaks and dips - along the lower-treble especially - are much more pronounced than the prototype’s; the former having an obvious 5kHz dip and an 8kHz peak. As a result, the FIBAE 3 comes across less coherent, while the prototype is more linear and uniform in hue. The FIBAE 3’s 10-12ish kHz peak also gives it a more apparent sense of immediate clarity, while the prototype chooses to be smoother and more refined. Obviously, this also means the prototype has a more natural tone; a touch warmer than neutral. But, it also clearly wins out in resolution and transparency. Notes decay quicker along a blacker background, so you can detect more micro-detail and nuance. Additionally, although stage size is similar, the prototype resolves further depth-wise. So, you can almost visualise the soundscape around and behind the note, which makes instruments sound more three-dimensional and holographic. You can only do the former with the FIBAE 3 before you hit the noise floor.
vs. Custom Art Harmony 8.2
The Harmony 8.2 is a closer match versus the prototype, because of similarities in bass tone, midrange structure and vocal positioning. But, there are several key differences between them as well, beginning with the stage. The Harmony 8.2’s greatest weakness has always been background blackness and instrument organisation. Because it begins to roll off around 10kHz, warm air constantly infests its stage, hurting its resolution as well as its dynamic range. The stage it presents is also wide but flat - choosing to separate along the x-axis - which, to me, is slightly unrealistic. The prototype, by comparison, has a much blacker background and a more stable stage. The air surrounding each note is much cleaner, so it comes across more transparent, dynamic and resolving. It also fans its instruments out more evenly along the spherical perimeter to create a more realistic, holographic and engaging soundscape. Though, to the Harmony 8.2’s credit, its warm air creates a more pleasing, euphonic response, while - as I mentioned in my first impressions - the prototype’s stage (while vast) can feel a bit empty because of its lack of bass extension. Speaking of the bass, the two share a similar tone down low. But, the prototype has more apparent resolution, texture and clarity, while the Harmony 8.2’s sounds bloomy-er and wetter by comparison. Additionally, the prototype’s bass is more sensitive to the track/mix in tone. Midrange structure is similar between the two as well, but the prototype - once again - has greater transparency because of a blacker background and superior depth-wise resolution. Also, it has more energy around 5-6kHz than the Harmony 8.2 for a brighter, more vibrant upper-midrange. Finally, the Harmony 8.2 has a more articulate and present 8kHz peak, so its transients are grainy-er and have more bite. The prototype is comparatively smoother here, but it’s also more refined, and clarity is compensated for by it black background. They’re similarly linear along the upper-treble, but the prototype extends where the Harmony 8.2 rolls off.
Thanks Daniel for extremely detailed comparisons.
I have been spending time with the ME and the prototype today, attempting to A/B so I could give you a concise, well-defined comparison. I poured myself an adult beverage and retreated to the porch for some quiet time. Prior to my listening session, I would have said, the ME has a bassier signature with more sub bass extension, warmth and a less aggressive treble, and less treble extension than the prototype with the prototype having a better overall tone, and a more coherent stage with a wider, more holographic stage.
I have included a photo of both IEMs and one photo of the port on the end of the prototype which has led to a lot of speculation that the prototype may be a hybrid IEM, I personally don't hear a DD in the prototype. I will say that the ME is by far easier to drive than the mystery IEM. Given there is a vent port and it's relative difficulty to drive, it makes me more curious as to the internals of the prototype. The comparison is not as easy as it would seem, as there are some parallels. I used the new Plastics1 hi-rez cable to pair with both IEMs. The Queststyle QP2R was the source I used, my reference DAP these days.
The stage of the prototype takes the prize as it is very coherent. I feel the large rectangle, that is the stage, of the prototype, takes on a holographic appearance. I prefer the stage of the prototype vs. the ME. The other stand out feature of the prototype is the tone of the signature. All instruments have a real sounding drop and decay. I was listening to a 24 bit version of Spyro Gyra Not Unlike, from the Rhinebeck Sessions, and the tone of the bass and percussion delivers such a realistic experience. The bass does not extend as far into the sub bass territory as the ME, but the bass it presents you is detailed, punchy and layered so well. The ME has more sub bass but I feel the mid bass of the prototype delivers the crispness and punchiness to the bass parts but with less rumble.
The treble of both IEMs extend well and neither venture into any harshness, with the prototype being the smoother between the two. The mids appear to be more forward on the prototype and throughout the entire mid range frequency. There is more coherency and balance overall in the prototype, mids included. Both of these IEMs have clarity, which prior to this session, I would not have given the ME credit for. I still hold true with my proclamation that the prototype has FIBAE DNA.
I want to say the last 1.5 hours has been so awesome. I didn't realize I would be so torn between both IEMs. Honestly, the comparison made me realize how much I enjoy the ME. Per chance, the prototype is the most technically proficient but I was left feeling I need to hear the final product to say which is my favorite although I am not sure that really matters. Piotr and team have been delivering the goods.
The vent port
Just idly wondering as I haven't heard either the massdrop or prototype, but could it be possible to have planar stuff in there as that seems to be the next big thing to hit?
Pinky's opinion: Unlikely.
Thanks for the feedback and comparison! I appreciate the detailed description