CUSTOM ART FIBAE 3
FIBAE 3 – Direct link to information
F 3 Design Acrylic – Design your acrylic version here
F 3 Design Silicon – Design your silicon version here
A Little Technical Stuff:
- Single proprietary Sub-Low, Single proprietary Full-Range, Single High
- 110dB @1kHz @0.1V
- 3 Ohm @1kHz (+-0.9 Ohm 10Hz-20kHz)
- 10Hz-21000Hz (+-20dB into IEC 60318-4 coupler)
- Silicone or Hollow Acrylic body
Custom Art FIBAE 3
-MRSP: Custom fit $525 EUR/$647 USD at the time of the review
I want to thank Piotr, proprietor of Custom Art for providing me with the FIBAE 3 for review.
My first exposure to Piotr and Custom Art was in August of 2017 when we had a discussion about allowing me to demo the FIBAE 2 for review. Actually, it was regarding the Harmony 8.2 but when asked which of his offerings he was proud of but that wasn’t receiving the exposure he felt it deserved he directed me to FIBAE 2. I had the pleasure to demo and review the FIBAE 2 and I really enjoyed the fun, musical signature and was in awe of the stereo separation and soundstage. Thus, I had to ask what is on the horizon for Custom Art(CA) and at that time Piotr mentioned the FIBAE 3(F3). He wrote a description of the F3’s signature and my initial thought was, after hearing the fun engaging sound of the F2, I am not sure that this was the type of signature I would enjoy. At this moment, I don’t remember the word bright being an adjective used in his description, pardon my senior moment, but the description made me feel that it was going to be a bright signature. I have always enjoyed a warmer signature but I was told that the F3 has copious amounts of clarity with some sweet sub bass thrown into the mix so I was certainly up for that challenge.
A Little Marketing Hype:
FIBAE 3 is a triple-driver mid-level IEM utilizing the world’s first Flat Impedance design (patent pending). Featuring single proprietary sub-low, single proprietary full-range and single tweeter drivers, it delivers unparalleled end-to-end frequency extension.
Flat Impedance Balanced Armature Earphone (FIBAE™) technology is world’s first, revolutionary, In-Ear Monitor design providing flat impedance and phase. By changing Balanced Armature driver character from inductive to resistive we solved one of the oldest problem in the industry – dependence on output impedance of sound source for correct earphone output. With FIBAE™ technology your earphones will always perform best from any DAP. Single and multi-driver configurations available.
FIBAE 3’s tuning is a result of a carte blanche approach. Researched and newly developed drivers deliver reference sound without sacrificing punchy lows as well as improved presence of highest frequencies without adding harshness or sibilance. FIBAE 3 shares highly musical and engaging character of its bigger brother – Harmony 8.2. Consequently, this triple-driver IEM offers smooth, balanced midrange and high coherency that Custom Art is known for.
FIBAE 3 emerges as a new paradigm with only three Balanced Armature drivers that provide class-leading extension across the frequency range.
I will add my take on the marketing hype in that the FIBAE technology is not a gimmick. The overall signature did not change with each source I used. Certainly there were quality differences heard from DAP to DAP but the signature remained relatively untouched. For example, If the DAC used could deliver a more spacious sound it would render differences in spaciousness etc.. but not the sound signature.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX:
- Custom FIBAE 3
- Carton box
- Peli 1010 case
- Zipper case
- Wax pick tool
- Drying pellet
- Warranty card
Unboxing and Accessories:
When beginning this section of the review I was thinking that the Custom Art accessories are rather meager, and by many a company standard they may be, but considering I have customs there aren’t included eartips included and the rest of the pack-ins would be fluff. For example, wiping cloths, cloth bags and so on. None of that is included with the CA F3. The Custom Art includes the necessities and on top of that they include a seriously quality product for a fair price. I will take a quality CIEM over the branded fluff any day. I love Pelican cases and am happy that they include a portable zippered case, simple pleasures satisfy me. As far the unboxing everything comes in a rather non-descript black box. I am not sure I can drone on and on about the black box, so I won’t. Sorry nothing more to see here, move along. That said, as the CA brand moves forward it would be a nice gesture to add more pack-ins or marketing collateral to round out the complete package. The cable is the standard fare, black copper Plastic’s One cable with memory wire ear guides. After my experience with aftermarket cables and how well the FIBAE 2 performed with a cable upgrade, I quickly switched the F3 to the Ares II and haven’t turned back since.
Build and Quality and Fit:
The F2 that I have are universal and in my review of those I was a little hard on Piotr. I thought the build quality had a bit of a cheaper look and feel, I am not sure why I felt that way and I noted maybe it was the color choices. Also, compared to my Zeus and EM10 it just didn’t appear to be the same level of quality. Anyway, I take back my criticism of Custom Art and build quality, the CIEM F3 build quality and design is superb. I left the design up to Piotr, kind of like a chef’s choice, and felt that what he returned was a tasteful, yet cool design. Piotr chose the acrylic shell as he feels the FIBAE performs better with the acrylic as opposed to the silicon shell. The build quality itself was without blemishes, no bubbles or no seams, all in all a great job!
The fit was perfect and didn’t require any time for me to grow accustomed to it in my ear. The seal was snug and there is no pain involved with wearing them. They isolate me perfectly from offending world noise on my daily walks, I have no gripes with the build, quality or fit.
My review was written utilizing multiple sources, Opus #1S and LG V30 and Shanling M3S and Opus #2. These are custom IEM’s so there is no worry as to which ear tip to choose. I listened using both a 3.5mm SE and 2.5mm balanced connection. My sample music consisted of 320kb and FLAC as well as streaming Tidal Masters and Spotify.
Moving on to the sound section….
I feel I need to say this right off the bat, the F3 doesn’t do a hell of a lot wrong, it portrays the music as it was meant to be heard. I am attempting to compare it to another IEM I have heard and honestly, I can’t. I put on some jazz and just get lost. The tonal quality and signature just proudly strut their stuff. Crystal clarity and rich fulfilling sub bass. This CIEM was built for it’s clarity and transparency and airiness and in that objective the F3 reign supreme, however play a track with sub bass notes and the sound fills in with a joyous rumble. The sound is more reference tuned than anything else, and the mid and treble range uphold the reference moniker proudly.
To particularize the presentation, the F3 has a wonderful reference sound. The sound rolls out of the IEM so effortlessly, it does not appear to labor it just opens up and out flows beautiful sound. This IEM is a fine example that clarity doesn’t necessarily mean bright and harsh. The F3 is far from harsh and I have never heard a hint of sibilance. With music such as Al Di Meola’s latest release, Opus, the amount of detail and micro detail captivates the listener. Do not think that the sound is analytical and emotionless with its level of detail because emotion exudes as you hear the fingers hitting the fret board and feeling the slide of the fingers on the strings as the artist changes chords. ENCHANTING! The overall presentation has a vast stage as well as tremendous speed, with a slight decay. I listen to the F3 and the clarity evokes visions of a crystal clear and quiescent bottomless pool, that is still until the sub bass kicks in and it creates ripples in the lucid pool, wonderful, deep bassy ripples. The signature is not warm but it also isn’t hollow or without substance, it is reference and has a fairly true tonality. Going back to when Piotr first gave me his description of the sound of the F3 I would say his description was factual and articulate. My characterization probably has evoked the same initial thoughts in you as I had about the F3. With adjectives such as clarity, detail and crystal it does stir reactions that the F3 is bright, but it is certainly noteworthy that it is NEVER fatiguing, NEVER harsh and NEVER strident. The upper treble range has an expert tuning that maintains control. Vocals seemed placed perfectly with the correct centralization and depth creating an impeccable fusion with the instruments.
The sub bass is very pleasing. It is a wonderful rumble, not to the teeth rattling bass head levels, not even close. It has layers and is a very detailed sub bass that does allow for rumble that creates the only hint of warmth I can detect in the IEM. The bass is perfectly placed and is a polite rumble that would never think of interrupting the clarity and details by bleeding into even the lower mid-range or the upper bass range for that matter. The control in the mid bass is appreciated and impressive, as I said everything stays in it’s place. I think the song #41 from Dave Matthews Crash release showcases how well defined the bass is. The drum kicks and the bass lines are smooth and flowing while having distinct edging to each instrument, thus being able to easily discern the bass drum from the electric bass. The detail in the bass is very apparent and defined. The song really showcases how technically proficient the F3 is. The decay drops quick and sharp and notes don’t linger in an unrealistic fashion.
The stage is veritably demonstrated in the mid-range of the F3. The vocals are slightly in front of the drummer but you can envision the perfect placement of how the stage would be set if you were in the crowd watching the show. There is a tinge of warmth in the lower midrange that is revealed in a dip in that range and in the range just above the lower mid-range there seems to be a slight bump. This creates a certain fullness while conserving the detail and clarity that is the hallmark of the F3. Very articulate and linear in the overall tone. I have found the mid-range to be incredible with almost all genres of music but with jazz and artists such as Dire Straits the F3 will excel. Again, song #41 from Dave Matthews(FLAC) is a sublime listening experience. Percussion, saxophone and acoustic guitar all shine. The F3 is quite obviously proud of its technical prowess as displayed in the way it struts its stuff across the mid-range spectrum.
The treble is where this CIEM separates itself from the pack. The hallmark is in the mid and upper treble ranges. It is a high energy listen without the sharpness reminiscent in many high energy IEM’s. Notes float with liberal amounts of air between them and are infused with details and transparency. This is the range that creates that crystalline pool I alluded to earlier in the review. The speed is brisk and the decay short on the cymbal strikes and there is no linger which creates the edge, the energy if you will. The treble extends well and veil or opacity be damned. The treble is the balance giver, the range that ties this package together and creates the symbiotic relationship between all of the frequencies particularly that wonderful sub bass. While the treble is majorly detailed the end-user can listen for hours without a hint of fatigue. There is no congestion in the F3, copious amounts of air around notes and crystal clear detailed treble round out the sound portion of the review.
The F3 does not need a lot of power to drive it properly. None of my sources had an issue driving them and a couple of times I wasn’t aware of my volume and I had it bumped up fairly high and I felt the pain, a word of caution. Remember with the FIBAE technology there are quality differences heard from DAP to DAP but the signature remains relatively untouched. So regarding the pairing portion of this review there is not going to be much to point out. All of my sources drove them easily and provided excellent quality sound. My two favorite sources to pair with the F3 are the Opus #2 and the LG V30. Opus #2 being my reference DAP and the wonderfully excellent quad DAC in the LG V30.
I compared different sources, a multi genre, multi format playlist, while testing IEM’s for their characteristics.
IE800S VS. FIBAE 3
Soundstage in both units is very wide and I would venture to say it is almost equal with the F3 being a touch wider. The depth of the IE800S is slightly greater but the F3 has more a more holographic stage at times. The bass of the IE800S is slightly deeper and has equal rumble with better textures in the other bass ranges in the IE800S. The F3 has more transparency and clarity in its mids and upper treble while the IE800S has more richness. The IE800S mids are smoother with zero harshness and the F3 has more clarity and transparency and zero offensive harshness. The IE800S has an overall smooth, full signature while the F3 is known for its clarity, transparency and sub bass. The treble extends well on both IEM’s but what we are talking about is a tale of two very different IEM’s, but the edge in extension and stage goes to the F3. I tested the F3 using the Ares II cable.
FIBAE 3 VS. FIBAE 2
Soundstage has an equal width with the F3 having more depth. The FIBAE2 has a more fun, musical characteristic while the F3 is more clear and transparent. The bass of the F3 goes a little deeper and has more rumble, but the F2 has an overall warmer tone. F3 bass has more layering and texture but the F2 holds its own. Both IEM’s have totally different mids with the F2 adding a richer lower mid-range, and a more musical tone. Both are detailed in their mids with the F3 being more transparent and clear. The F3 has that treble extension at the upper range of the treble while both extend very well there is that certain treble clarity and stage that the F3 owns which sounds more neutral overall.
F3 VS. EM10
The F3 has a wider soundstage with the EM10 sounding more confined and narrow. EM10 is more balanced across the board and reveals itself as smooth throughout the spectrum. F3 has more texture in its bass and rumble in the sub bass. The F3 has more clarity and transparency in its mids and is more aggressive. The treble extends further in the F3 and with more much detail and sparkle. These are definitely two different IEM’s with two different purposes to their tuning. There are times when the mood calls for the EM10.
I have heard the two driver FIBAE and now the three driver FIBAE and who knows maybe I will get to hear the Massdrop version with six drivers. Both of the FIBAE options check a lot of boxes, they are different boxes, but they check their own boxes and do it very confidently.
If you decide on the F3 you will most certainly receive clarity and transparency in spades and the sub bass which is so well tuned in all of its rumbly, layered glory.
The accessories are adequate and for me all I really need or want for that matter. Some of you that appreciate a little fluff will not receive it with the F3. Awesome build, expert tuning and one of the best value companies vs. fluff…you choose.
As far as the CIEM itself, Custom Art has delivered a product that exudes sexiness, value and quality tuning. It is reference tuned, for all intents and purposes, and combined with a crystal-clear transparent signature and sub bass rumble I don’t see how the consumer can go wrong. I find it amazing how the treble in all of its clarity never even sticks its toe across the line of harshness. I am more and more amazed with Custom Art as they enhance their lineup of products. The company has some truly outside the box thinking combined with Piotr’s if you dream it, it can be done attitude toward business and you have the recipe for success. The future appears to be quite bright for Custom Art.