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M-Fidelity (formerly Starkey Norway) SA-43 Custom IEM Review: Expansive Space + Options

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  1. MikePortnoy
    I sometimes switch back to Sa43 for some tests. It still has one of the best tonality among my customs with an impressive imaging.. An ageless tuning.
     
  2. marcusdb
    Hello, I was interested in these customs after listening to a demo. I did have a question about the silicone fill option, as I've never read about this being available with other customs (a few other companies like Earsonics offer an acrylic fill option). What effect would it have on the sound to have the silicone fill instead of the hollow acrylic shell? I'd like the extra isolation, but not if it will affect the sound adversely. Thanks.
     
  3. MikePortnoy
     
    Hi Marcus,
     
    Nice to see that you got a chance to listen to SA43. Here is the explanation coming from directly SA-43 maker, Alf. 
     
    ''The silicone fill does not change the sound in any way, as it only fills the sealed off empty space around the speakers inside the shell.
     
    It increases the damping of surrounding noise from about 26dB to 36dB, because it makes the IEM into a solid mould that blocks out outside noise instead of just the damping you get, when noise is blocked by just the faceplate and the shells tip of the ear canal. 
     
    Added bonus is that the fill makes the shell more impact resistant and protects the speakers better from damage due to fall or shocks as they are essentially sitting suspended in soft silicone.''
     
    Hope this helps. :)
     
    marcusdb likes this.
  4. Fredrik23
    Hi,
     
    I demoed the SA43 yesterday in Oslo, and I got to say, they are something different. I spent around 30min with them listening to all sorts of music, and they simply left me staggered. 
     
    The thing is, I really want these, but they are a huge investment for me. That means I will have to sell my Shure SE846. Now that is simple enough, but I'm in a dilemma where I do not know which I want the most. The sound of these are so different. The bass and mids I find more pleasant and rich in the SE846, but the soundstage and imaging of the SA43 is something else. 
     
    If any of you have done some extensive listening with both of them, I would love to hear your opinion. Cheers[​IMG]
     
  5. oknidius
    Received my SA-43 this week. Just wanted to share some impressions.
     
    1. Customer service: Impeccable.
    I sent my ear impressions and my order form on a Saturday. Canada Post promised 7 days travel time. 2nd business day after the impressions left Montreal (Tuesday), I received an email from M-Fidelity advising me they had the impressions. The email also reconfirmed all the details from my order form which I thought was a simple but really nice touch to avoid any errors.
    They asked me how I would like to pay (PayPal or bank transfer). Two days later I received a PDF invoice with bank transfer instructions and information that it should take 5 to 10 days to finish them.
    Six days (including a week-end) after I sent my payment, Alf advised me that they were shipped and provided a tracking number. 
    A few days later, Canada Post delivered. 
     
    2. Initial impressions:
    Fit: excellent! The canal extends a little deep and I was uncertain whether it would be comfortable, but I have no issues.
    Sound: eeewww!!! Did I really pay this price for something that sounds this bad? 
     
    3. Further impressions:
    Fit: Still excellent. They bore deep (way deeper than any IEMs I've had, and way, way deeper than my only other CIEM, the 1964-A5). They're fairly difficult to take out, especially in a hurry. 
     
    Sound: Aaahhh... now we're talking! Man these things are hard to drive. 
    My terrible initial impressions came from underpowered sources: Cowon Plenue D was the worst... at volume of 90 they couldn't power these and the sound was terribly grainy, distorted, harsh and thin all at the same time. FIIO X1 a little better (decent enough but nowhere near enough juice). Sony A17: blergh... FIIO X3: meh, see X1. iBasso DX80 powered them well enough but the sound was at most average... the sort of thing you'd expect from an iPod with a pair of 50$ Sonys... good, not great and definitely not worth the total price paid for the extravagance of a high-resolution DAP and custom IEMs. 
     
    I'm against stacking. So no amp for me. If I'm going to listen to music from a brick, I'll buy a decent home set up & amp and stay tethered to the wall. If I'm going portable, the DAP will have to do the work on its own... I'm not dragging the DAP and the AMP and fiddling with controls and cables on both and worrying about which runs out of battery first or which pocket to stick them in or do I have enough cables or chargers or electrical outlets to recharge everything. Key words: portable, mobile, on-the-go. In other words: simple, not complicated. With that, out went the idea of buying a portable amp.
     
    But clearly these things needed more power than what I had on hand could provide.
     
    So after wondering what to do... I had after all bought a pretty expensive pair of earplugs if I couldn't find a way to power these... I went to a local music store and got a FIIO X5 (2nd Gen). Sure, it jacked up the total price by 50%.
    But yeah baby! Now we're in business. The SA-43 (all switches set to off) powered straight out of the X5-II with some custom slightly U-shaped  EQ and we've got perfection. Nothing stands out: no deep groovy bass (though the SA43 are certainly capable if needed); no enveloping mids; no shimmering highs (though nothing's muted either). Everything sounds natural. I'd add "rounded".
     
    Orchestral recordings... like being in a concert hall or a church. Rounded brass tone, lush strings, intimate winds, powerful timpani... 
    I only briefly tested them with pop, rock, latin, ballads and rap. Not what I intended them for so didn't spend too much time on those genres. But everything sounded pretty good and enjoyable. For non-classical, these are not the hardest hitting most impressive IEMs, but they're the kind that I could enjoy for hours on end without feeling fatigue. 
    For orchestral music, the X5-II and the SA-43 are a match made in heaven. Some Chandos recordings for example while impressive can be pretty harsh in the treble area. I often have to stop after 2 or 3 albums. With the X5/SA43 combo, the Chandos Sound is tamed to pleasing, long session listening levels. At home, I listen to volume at 55 on the X5. Outside, I go up to 80 or 90 depending on the album and still have room to spare. 
     
    So yeah... anyone planning to order these... just make sure you've got a decently powerful set up. 
     
    4. Isolation: I opted for the silicone filled shells. Frankly, they're dangerous. I'm rediscovering the art of looking three times each way before I cross a street since I can't count on my ears to warn me of a car engine. I see the Montreal subway moving. I wouldn't know it was in motion otherwise. People's lips move, but no sound comes out. Isolation: perfect! Just... you know... if you're not severely visually impaired: be careful and mindful of your surroundings. If you are visually impaired, don't get the silicone-filled version... it's like losing another one of your senses every time you stick them in.
     
  6. MikePortnoy
    Nice to see that you like SA-43 @oknidius I think SA-43 deserves more attention. It provides great imaging and realistic presentation. The weakest point is to drive it as you mentioned. As long as we have a powerful source, it sounds very good. 
     
  7. greytomorrow
    I use SA-43 for more than year and a half. These are one of the best CIEM that I've ever used. However, it's a bit difficult to drive them. As for me, only Calyx M, IHIFI 960, Hifiman 801 with custom amp, A&K Kann and Lotoo Paw Gold solve this problem completely. Other DAPs damage SA-43's staging and lows :frowning2:
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2018
  8. Virtu Fortuna
  9. Virtu Fortuna
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