When I was considering buying a Custom In-Ear Monitor (CIEM) a while back, a company that seemed to get a lot of recommendation for being a good entry level audiophile CIEM was Custom Art, based in Poland. They were considered relatively inexpensive, while delivering capable and likable products.
Up until now, I still had not ever tried a Custom Art product, but with Headphones.com adding more inventory of new brands this year, and Custom Art being one of them, I was asked recently if I wanted to take advantage of the Community Preview Program at The Headphone Community, and try out the all-new flagship from Custom Art – The Fibae 7, in a limited edition universal-fit Anniversary Blue color.
The Anniversary Blue Fibae 7 was sent to me with just the neoprene zip up carrying pouch, along with a few tips and the IEMs and cable. I do not know if the real unit will have any additional packaging to go along with it at this time.
The cable features a 2-pin connection and is a bright white/silver colored cable that is thin and lightweight and very easy to handle and use. There’s a chin strap cinch that is useful if you want less cable movement and the connection at the source is a right-angled 3.5mm jack.
The Fibae 7 features 7 balanced armature drivers and features a patent-pending “Flat Impedance” design. The seven drivers include 2 sub-low, 1 low-mid, 2 mid-high, and 2 top firing tweeters and while most multi-BA IEMs feature low impedance which can cause wild fluctuations with sources, the Flat Impedance technology uses is supposed to minimize any source impact on sound.
Before I hit the sound category, let me give you a little look into what I find neutral and what I am using in this review. First off, I tend to lean towards the Diffuse Field target as a neutral signature as opposed to the Harman Target curve which is popular today. My own preferred curve is somewhere in between the two, but more of a warm DF curve with less treble emphasis. As a reference, I currently am using the qdc Anole VX as my daily driver IEM, and before that the Campfire Solaris. I also really enjoy the Moondrop Kanas Pro and ER2XR as a more budget tier IEM that fits my sound signature well.
My sources used in this review include the RME ADI-2 DAC and it’s 3.5mm IEM output, and 4 different portable sources: The Astell & Kern SR15 A&Norma (warmer DAP), Pioneer XDP-300R (cooler and airy), Fiio M11 (neutral-ish airy), and the Samsung Galaxy S10e phone. I ended up using Final Audio E tips with the Fibae 7 for most of the usage.
The CustomArt Fibae 7 quickly reminded me of a warmer, more detailed and more exacting version of the Etymotics ER-series of in-ears. That is, a diffuse-field tuned IEM that has a slight bump in the bass region that provides a little more warmth and energy. I have not heard the ER4XR before nor have I heard the ER3XR, but given that they are less elevated than the ER2XR that I do have, I imagine that the Fibae 7 is on-par with that type of sound profile.
Some will find the bass a little lacking, depending on where you come from, but for me, the bass is nicely defined, has some extension, though don’t expect any low-end rumble, or punishing impact. Bass lines are well layered and textured, and provide plenty of detail. As this is a multi-balanced armature IEM, the bass is fast and quick and may not provide a basshead that needed slow decay and punch. It’s also not tuned to do that. Instead, you’ll be rewarded with a nice clean presentation that provides enough elevation to give a little body to the male vocals and the lower midrange.
Speaking of which, the mids are very coherent. Transition between bass to lower mids and into the upper mids is smooth and I find very appetizing. Male vocals have a little bit more body than female vocals, but both are equally weighted in terms of presence.
The upper registers of the Fibae 7 are pushing the boundaries of being harsh, but is toned down just enough to provide none of the harshness to me, and also no sibilance. CustomArt made a good balancing act here, and I was rewarded with clean, airy soundscapes and clarity. Treble isn’t quite as extended as I had hoped, but still does not seem like I am missing much with it rolling off.
Imaging is pretty well done here. There’s clear separation of instruments despite it having a soundstage that is between the ears. Depth and height aren’t as big as I would like, and this IEM is more of a left to right soundstage than a 3D holographic one that I have gotten more used to with the Solaris and the VX more recently.
In some selective track listening….
Daft Punk’s Contact:
This track from Random Access Memories starts off with a spacey soundscape and radio transmissions which sound a little more intimate that I would like. The transition into the main song doesn’t quite have the impactful drum kicks and sustained decay either, but instead hit with tight precision as do the cymbals, which aren’t overly splashy and sound on point. During the busiest section of the song, which is one the most busy tracks in my normal rotation, I found that the Fibae 7 handles it well and never sounds congested or smeared. When comparing to the Campfire Solaris in this track, I found the Solaris to struggle a little bit more with the congestion, however details were more resolving and defined, and the bass impactful and bigger with the Solaris than the Fibae 7.
M83’s Atlantic Sud:
This is a track where the Fibae 7 really excels in. Despite being made by the dancey-electro-rock band M83, this is a slower piano ballad featuring Mai Lan trading her beautiful French vocals with M83’s Anthony Gonzales back and forth. The Fibae 7 handles this song with grace and elegance and is ultra-smooth throughout. Both male and female vocals bounce of each other with ease and equally distributed.
Some other genres to note:
The Fibae 7 isn’t going to be the best for music that requires a big bassline or big drums like electronic dance music, hip hop, and the like. It’s well suited for vocals, vocals and more vocals. It also plays well with most rock
The Solaris is a much bigger and heavier IEM, over doubling the weight of the Fibae 7. The fit can be challenging with the Solaris, as I personally experienced this and documented it in my previous review of the Campfire product. The Solaris provides a bigger dynamic driver-led bass section that punches, extends, and feels more lively than the Fibae 7. It also provides greater warmth and musicality to the signature. The Fibae 7 is tighter, faster, and has less hollow vocals, but may sound a tad boring and sterile when compared to the Solaris. It also has a much smaller soundstage in all directions than the Solaris.
Meze Rai Penta
The new Rai Penta is the flagship IEM from the Romanian outfit, Meze. The major aesthetic difference between the two is the Rai Penta uses a very attractive CNC machined aluminum alloy shell that is quite a looker. Both feature very similar sound signatures, a warmer diffuse-field-like tuning. The Penta plays it just a tad more safe though, with less extension on both sides, but has punchier bass. On a detail resolution stand point, I find both on par with each other, with maybe a slight nod to the Penta.
The Andromeda features both more elevated and punchier pass than the CustomArt Fibae 7, but lacks the midrange presence and vocal clarity. The Andromeda provides much more treble sparkle than the Fibae 7 but I find the Fibae 7 more tonally correct and more coherent in general. It’s also much less sensitive to output impedance than the Andromeda due to it’s Flat Impedance technology.
At the end of the day, I find the CustomArt Fibae 7 a very appealing package despite a generally safe tuning approach. Its minor issues are really only present if you want big bass or need a grand soundstage, but other than that, this is a very engaging, coherent, and well-tuned package, and one that is an upgrade upon something like the Etymotics ER series.
I do find myself really enjoying this IEM because it works for so any of the genres I listen to the most, and that’s a big plus in my books. There are some things I wish it could do better, but I’m pleased with how this one turned out and would consider it as a good reference-type tuning if I wanted to go towards a CIEM in that profile.