The FIBAE7 is a very rich sounding IEM, a soulful and romantic presentation that combines power and energy with finesse and nuance. In this day and age where Trybrids and newly arrived eStat drivers are highly popular, it also shows that BAs are still entirely relevant to compete in the top tier : craft and tuning is still the essence of the game and tech is only a means to an end. Custom Art has shown that mastering tuning, mixing customized BA driver of different types can make up a very special flagship. If you like a full, rich, natural and smooth signature with amazing musicality and great sense of pace rhythm and timing with no compromises on technical foundations then you’re in for a treat with the FIBAE7!
- Mids are full bodied, smooth and articulate with incredibly rich textures while retaining great tonal balance and timbre
- Fun bass tuning, with good kick and extension : subs can be physically felt!
- Exciting yet smooth lower treble with great energy, refined upper treble
- Highly coherent soundstage and pinpoint precise imaging, everything comes together perfectly
- Very good pace, rhythm and timing (great toe tapping factor!)
- Value for money is fantastic
- None, except if you have an issue with strong upper mids presence and forward signatures
Price : 1100€
Product page : https://thecustomart.com/fibae-7/
Fit & Build
My Custom Art IEM, namely the Black and FIBAE 4 have better isolation than my other custom because the seal is just a little bit tighter than my other customs (VE8, Phantom and EM64 which is based on the same digital impressions). Both were 3D printed black shells, the FIBAE 7 is my first Custom Art CIEM that is not 3D printed.
The fit and build are simply perfect, and the FIBAE7 looks sturdy and well able to withstand every day use. Note that the shells are quite compact for a seven driver and wearing them is a totally fatigue free experience with perfect seal. I hinted in my FIBAE 4 review that I would go ahead and get a custom design for the F7 and I did pick the acclaimed Galaxy Blue design and I love it!
I didn’t mention this in my other Custom Art reviews but I do appreciate a lot the option of getting recessed 2pin socket as I find this is more secure. Actually the option to choose between MMCX and 2 pin as well, which is not that frequent and allows for flexibility depending on your cable collection. Kudos to Custom Art for this!
2019 will be Custom Art’s year for sure, as they pushed the envelope starting with the FIBAE Black release a very singular single BA with a Helmholtz resonator which also happened to be my first Custom Art IEM and one very special item in my collection. Piotr then went on to explore the benefits of an all top firing BA drivers design with the FIBAE 4 (a first, actually) which was my second Custom Art IEM. In French we have a saying « jamais deux sans trois » or simply put everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.
I purchased the Black and loved it, then the FIBAE 4 and liked it a lot… and as it turns out Piotr had furthers plans to release a 7 driver flagship for the brand 7th anniversary. No brainer, I couldn’t skip a Custom Art flagship and a statement product at that : « FIBAE 7 incorporates driver modules from across our IEM range to create the most balanced, the most natural and the most exciting IEMs we have done so far. FIBAE 7 is tuned as most natural sounding IEM in Custom Art’s portfolio. Dual sub-bass driver make the lows weighty but never bloated. The vocals are tuned for presence and forwardness with natural smooth tonality. Thanks to two Top-Firing Drivers, the high frequency response is finely detailed and never harsh. FIBAE 7 combines big headroom, high resolution and extreme dynamic range with fast transient response, making it the perfect IEM for audiophiles and musicians looking for precision and naturality. »
Quite a big claim… does it hold its promises?
And since we’re are on sayings, after the Black and FIBAE4 is « third time the charm »?
Let’s see !
The FIBAE7 signature is to me the epitome of musicality : sub bass provide physicality and strength, engaging mid bass it provides great rhythm and pace while lower treble energy provides plenty of excitement and upper treble finesse, air and resolution. But where the FIBAE7 stands apart in my opinion is its rich, full bodied and textured presentation.
This is – to me – a very enticing signature and I believe Piotr personal take on what a flagship should be that is neither focused on extreme technicalities or a pure reference signature nor on wowing you at being the « best » at whatever attribute (soundstage, bass, treble, resolution take your pick…). The FIBAE7 won’t be the best flagship in terms of resolution, as we’ll see in the comparison section the VE8 has better resolution. It won’t be the best flagship in terms of speed, as we’ll see in the comparison section the EM64 is faster. It won’t be the best flagship in terms of extension both ways, the Phantom has more sub bass and bass kick, the VE8 has better extension and upper treble refinement. Soundstage is not the biggest but I’ll get back to this it’s very good and coherent, yes width might not be in the « wow » category but height and depth are fairly impressive especially given how full sounding the FIBAE7 both soundstage and imaging are absolutely top tier.
But the FIBAE7 magic resides in how it combines qualities that draws you into the music, it’s highly engaging and addictive… it exemplifies the saying that « the sum is greater than its parts » and this to me is Piotr real « tour de force » in terms of tuning the FIBAE7. This is also what made it really hard for me to pinpoint why it clicked so incredibly with me and how it got me to find myself surprised during one of the first sessions that my DX220 had run out of battery and it was 5am in the morning (that day, I clocked 12 hours of FIBAE7 listening no less!).
But enough babble, let’s get serious and dig deeper! In fact for this review I’ll take extra care to dissect quite a bit more than usual to balance out how the FIBAE7 have simply managed to mesmerize me… Let’s snap out of it for a bit, as hard as it was to get analytical about the FIBAE7, I strived to stay true to the reviewer’s task!
The FIBAE7 bass play an important role in the signature, it adds a dimension of physicality and power to the FIBAE7 I like a lot and it also benefits to the soundstage depth and height
Bass extension and presence is very good and surprisingly for a BA setup sub bass can be physically felt, it’s almost as if the BAs are pushing air, more so than the FIBAE4 with its top firing bass driver. The 40-50Hz slight bump gives the sub this satisfying weight to bass guitar and punch to kick drums even at lower listening levels which I tend to favor.
Mid bass has good kick with a rich, textured, layered and nuanced presentation. It gently rolls off between 50Hz and 250Hz avoiding boosting the mid bass to much and helping articulation given the good sub bass presence. Acoustic guitar and piano are full sounding with beautiful bloom and vocals have strong fundamentals. I believe the FIBAE7 bass should raise a few satisfying grins upon listen especially when pushing the volume a bit.
This being said – despite all its great bass qualities described above – the FIBAE7 won’t be an IEM for bass-heads who will lack in quantity and slam factor that a snappier attack and more tilted signature would bring. But it will provide a strong bass line and of particular note it will be able to keep up with faster paced music helping an excellent sense of rhythm that trickles down the whole signature.
The FIBAE7 mids are full sounding, smooth, rich and textured with fairly forward lead instruments and vocals but the bass and treble balances this nicely, respectively providing good depth and air, kick and excitement balancing the engagement across the whole frequency range. Still the mids are – to me – the star of the show, but the supporting cast is great enough that it doesn’t take up all the attention. Also, the FIBAE7 has just a touch of warmth but it’s a subtle touch which grants the FIBAE7 its advertised naturalness.
The lower mids section is linear with a very gentle roll off from 250 to 500Hz. Lower stringed instruments have good clarity participating in the general sense of rhythm. Cymbals have meat and electric guitar have girth which contribute to this satisfying full bodied presentation that the FIBAE7 excels at. On the vocals front now, I found vocals to be highly engaging and expressive, male vocals have good power and female vocals are sweeter for a very natural and engaging presentation. The FIBAE7 vocals are among the most enjoyable I have been given the pleasure to listen to.
The midrange itself is almost flat linear until 900Hz or so with a continuous rise from 900Hz to 2kHz. Bass guitar have good growl and electric guitar plenty of presence – adding to the fun factor – I enjoyed it very much on my Blues favorites. Then a significant upper midrange presence up to 4kHz interrupted only by a small dip at 3kHz and it probably explains that I didn’t find the FIBAE7 to be fatiguing at all despite the upper midrange focus. This being said, I could see some people finding the richness and presence of the upper mids to be too much, especially if they like a leaner presentation it might even be a deal breaker.
The upper midrange presentation certainly benefits vocals and acoustic guitar presence – as I tend to listen to quite a bit of Indie Folk this is again quite in line with my favorite genres. Hi hats and cymbals also benefit here with good sizzle and snare drums have good crispness, tenor sax has good bite : all part of the a musical sense of rhythm and excitement of the FIBAE7 this time in particular when I was listening to Jazz.
The FIBAE7 matches my treble preferences quite well as I discovered with the IE800 and Solaris I do like my lower treble energy as long as it’s not overdone (the FIBAE7 is way more subtle than both here) and I discovered with the VE8 how much refinement a well executed upper treble section can bring to the table. Luckily for me, the FIBAE7 has both and once again it’s masterfully executed with enough energy to bring excitement and clarity while remaining smooth, non fatiguing and free of sibilance. I also like a bit of weight to my treble especially on Piano notes and the FIBAE7 provides a yummy physical treble.
This – on top of more upper mids presence – was key to a brighter (but not bright to my ears) signature than the FIBAE4 and even more so the rolled off treble of the Black. In that sense the FIBAE7 positioning is complimentary in the product range. I haven’t had the chance to hear the Harmony 8.2 but from Custom Art website the co-flagship appears to be similar to the FIBAE7 only a bit warmer and less extended which explains why they advertise the FIBAE7 as having more precise imaging.
The upper treble is no less enticing and I sure appreciate the superb hi hats, cymbals, saxophone and piano overtones as well as snare drum snap and the overall air the FIBAE7 treble brings to the table. The top firing drivers are doing wonders there and I love the naturalness of the treble decay. Given the overall full bodied and rich signature, I found that the upper treble presence and performance provided plenty of resolution to the FIBAE7. Yet, resolution is not there to show off so detail heads might find the FIBAE7 lacking but I think it integrates beautifully with the signature : again the sum is greater than any parts of the FIBAE7.
I have read many impressions and reviews stating the FIBAE7 is on the more intimate side of things in terms of soundstage but this is probably also form factor (UIEM, CIEM), source and cable dependent. Most reviews around are based on universal FIBAE7 and unfortunately I haven’t been able to compare unlike with the FIBAE Black but I am betting there is a difference. I listened mostly on the DX220 with AMP9 and AMP8, and I certainly never felt the custom FIBAE7 has a very different soundstage than say the VE8 but we’ll get back to this in the comparison section.
This review has been a very very special one such a fun ride but also an immense challenge to keep it real, because as you gathered the FIBAE7 ticks all of my boxes. So much so that I put both the VE8 and Phantom up for sale, no less… As it turns out third Custom Art IEM is actually is the charm!
The VE8 – my first custom IEM – has better resolution and still unmatched upper treble refinement : sure, but the FIBAE7 isn’t far behind and has fuller mids and better sub bass extension both items have always been something missing for me int the VE8. The Phantom – my second custom IEM – has a tad more sub bass, fuller lower mids and significantly more bass kick with snappier note attack, but it falls short in the upper treble section which deprives it of a bit of air and its lower treble can be brittle at times with a tad too much energy. The EM64 – the last flagship tier custom IEM in my collection – is a bit faster with incredible transients and has better perceived clarity and transparency and also great balance but it’s both more forward and leaner and I don’t always want to get that high energy, clear and fast paced presentation. This being said it’s quite complementary with the FIBAE7 signature.
The FIBAE7 is a very rich sounding IEM, a soulful and romantic presentation that combines power and energy with finesse and nuance. In this day and age where Trybrids and newly arrived eStat drivers are highly popular, it also shows that BAs are still entirely relevant to compete in the top tier : craft and tuning is still the essence of the game and tech is only a means to an end. Custom Art has shown that mastering tuning, mixing customized BA driver of different types can make up a very special flagship.
If you like a full, rich, natural and smooth signature with amazing musicality and great sense of pace rhythm and timing with no compromises on technical foundations then you’re in for a treat with the FIBAE7!
This review was originally published on headfi.org :
Thanks to Piotr for helping me get the FIBAE7 as a repeat customer and reviewer, providing a discounted price as well as the beautiful Galaxy Blue design. As usual, this review is my honest opinion on the FIBAE7.
I spent approximately a hundred hours with the FIBAE 7, listening to DX220/AMP9, AMP8 and AMP1 mk2 with Dunu Hulk and stock null audio Arete with AMP9 and AMP1 mk2 and Cayin N6ii (A01).
Thanks to the FIBAE tech, the FIBAE7 won’t be impacted by the changes due to output impedance of the source (like the 10ohm OI of the Hiby R6) and therefore changes are only the result of the DAC and amp implementation. The review was mostly written based on iBasso DX220 as a source with AMP1 mk2, AMP8 and NuTubes powered AMP9. I also used the AAW Capri cable for the iPhone and after publishing the review I then acquired the Cayin N6ii with the A01 motherboard.
The DX220 is a very transparent and natural sounding DAP overall and it’s a great pairing with FIBAE7. Resolution is very good and soundstage was the widest of the pairing I have tested with the FIBAE7. AMP1 mk2 is the thickest of the 3 AMPs I have tested on the FIBAE7, with more lower mids presence and the most lower treble energy. AMP8 has more air and a thinner more neutral mids presentation with leaner lower mids, bass is more layered and controlled, lower treble has less energy of the 3 AMPs and upper treble has more presence and better extension than AMP1 mk2. AMP9 has significantly more bass impact, with tighter bass and a tad more sub bass presence than AMP8. Mids are less forward that the other 2 AMPs, lower treble is less energetic than AMP1 mk2 but more than AMP8. There is more air and upper treble has more presence as well as extension.
My final review was done based on AMP8, which was my favorite pairing.
Now this is my favorite pairing by far, although it’s definitely not one that brings the FIBAE7 into reference / neutral territory, this combo is nothing short of spectacular if you like the FIBAE7 signature it will take it a step further yet.
Bass is tighter with a sharper attack and shorter decay than DX220 with whichever AMP, there is more snap but also it’s a richer, more textured presentation. The mids are warmer with more lower mids presence, male vocals gain power and female are just a tad sweeter and the overall mids is paradoxically better balanced with the forward upper mids section. This also makes the Cayin N6ii the thickest presentation over the DX220 no matter which AMP. Treble wise, lower treble energy is fairly similar to DX220 with AMP9 which is just the right amount to my ears. Upper treble have far more presence though, and again it brings a different balance to the treble with just as much upper as lower treble.
This is where the N6ii has better resolution and refinement than the DX220 which carries across the whole signature. Snappier attack across the frequency range and faster decay also means better transients, taking the FIBAE7 to new heights for me with a highly natural and exciting signature. Yet, this pairing makes the FIBAE7 signature more polarizing to those who are sensitive to upper mids and forward signatures in general.
The Capri is a cable including a 24/96 DAC and small balanced headphone amplifier, it exist in Lightning form for the iPhone or USB-C for android phones. It’s very convenient when you want to travel light without a DAP and it performs pretty good.
This pairing was surprisingly good, with a very neutral presentation and sufficient drive. Bass doesn’t pack the punch, layering or textures of both DX220 or the N6ii but it’s pretty decent with no flaws. Mids are quite balanced with the most lower mids presence and a tad less forward upper mids. It’s obviously much less articulate than both the DX220 and N6ii, with less separation but also less bite. Treble wise, there is good lower treble energy but it lacks a bit of excitement. Upper treble is where it falls short of the two DAPs in a big way and this means significantly less resolution and air.
It’s been written by so many, the VE8 is a stunning flagship that managed to raise an almost universal consensus both among people with a focus on technical performance and those who like musical and fun sounding signatures. It manages to reach a balance that very few IEM have reached with strong mid bass presence, reference articulate mids, smooth lower treble and the most refined upper treble presentation I have been given the pleasure to listen to and in fact the very first IEM to grant me this kind of shiver. The VE8 is a very engaging and musical IEM but the FIBAE7 is no less engaging in its own way.
First, the FIBAE7 has more sub bass which grants it more power and physicality than the VE8 despite the fact that the VE8 has more mid bass presence which makes it more playful and in a way less reference down low than the FIBAE7.
The lower midrange is where they are the most similar although the VE8 has a little more lower mids presence but where they differ in a big way is from 1kHz to 4kHz where the FIBAE7 has a much steeper rise between 1 and 2kHz and then a bump in the 2-4kHz range. The FIBAE7 is more forward, full bodied and has a richer midrange than the VE8. Vocals are more prominent in the mix but also sweeter sounding with richer textures.
The treble section is also quite different, while the FIBAE7 has a significant dip from 4kHz to 12kHz with two bumps at 5kHz and 7kHz the VE8 has much more treble presence from 5kHz to 10kHz with peaks at 6 and 8kHz. While the VE8 has some hints of sibilance on some recordings depending on the source and cable, the FIBAE7 never exhibited any issue on that front. The VE8 has a bit more edge to its treble but I found the FIBAE7 had more lower treble energy and more weight to its treble compared to the feather touch of the VE8 treble.
While listening this translated into a significantly better resolution for the VE8 and a blacker background. Instrument wise I found violins more emphasized, saxophones clearer sounding (on Gerry Mulligan and Ben Webster “Chelsea Bridge”), piano notes more nuanced (on Diana Krall “Pick yourself up”) and imaging more precise with wider and deeper soundstage. On the flipside the FIBAE7 had significantly more sub bass, fuller sounding vocals with richer textures and instruments with better presence of lead instruments and singer. The soundstage is taller than the VE8, and overall this makes it grander in my mind than the VE8 soundstage although I suspect they are fairly similarly sized I find the FIBAE7 more holographic.
The Phantom is the second flagship I purchased after the VE8, the longing for a thicker sounding IEM, as well as more sub bass presence was the main driver for me. The Phantom is a bit of a controversial IEM because it has an opiniated tuning, you either click with it or you don’t. On one side you’ll have people like me who crave its unique thickness, body and weight and on the other side you’ll have people who find it dark, too thick, too rolled off up top… which is to show that an opiniated tuning can be quite polarizing but it’s also what makes it unique.
Compared to the FIBAE7, the Phantom has similar bass presence but with a more satisfying sharper attack that certainly caters more to the bass-head in me. It also has much more lower mids emphasis and much less forward upper midrange than the FIBAE7 granting it a deeper soundstage. I found the Phantom to have more lower treble energy at times its treble can be a bit brittle depending on the pairing, and certainly less natural than the FIBAE7. But aside from the upper mids presentation, the upper treble section is where the Phantom is the most different from the FIBAE7. The Phantom sharp roll off after its 8kHz bump is significantly different than the FIBAE7 which has quite more upper treble presence.
Compared to the Phantom, the FIBAE7 is much more open sounding, with more precise imaging and a wider soundstage although the Phantom is deeper. Both are similarly tall. Vocals and instruments are more forward, the FIBAE7 is less warm and more natural than the Phantom both for male and female vocals. The FIBAE7 is clearly more resolving than the Phantom, with better separation.
Earsonics EM64 is the latest addition and flagship of the “pro” line primarily targeting musicians on stage and it reflect in its tuning : you’re meant to be « in » the music, like the FIBAE7 this is a forward signature – both instruments and vocals are up front – with blazing speed that can handle anything you’ll throw at it and if you’ve read my EM64 review you know I was wowed by its transients, speed and headroom. Like the FIBAE7 it shares a sane pricing in the current flagship market and like the FIBAE7 it therefore punches de facto well above its price point (in fact I consider both compete at any price point and are very much TOTL).
This is maybe the most interesting comparison as the EM64 and FIBAE7 share a similar forward tuning and upper mids presence, which was in other comparisons the most distinctive factor between the FIBAE7 and VE8 and FIBAE7 and Phantom. This time is different. Overall the EM64 and FIBAE7 have the same highly engaging qualities in that they draw you into the music with their forward presentation.
The FIBAE7 and EM64 also share a great sense of rythm with the EM64 having the edge on faster paced music and the FIBAE7 on a more natural take on fast, with a more natural decay. The EM64 is clearly the brighter IEM while the FIBAE7 had that carefully thought out touch of warmth and smoothness with softer attack where the EM64 is much snappier, more exciting but also more fatiguing.
Sub bass extension is fairly similar, as well as mid bass presence with again the main difference laying in note attack, snappier on the EM64 with shorter decay and faster recovery time. The EM64 therefore as a drier bass than the FIBAE7, while not falling in my book in the dry category either (it’s just that the FIBAE7 is quite opposite of the scale there). Both IEM have great toe tapping factor but I prefer the richer texture of the FIBAE7 in the end if I had to pick one.
The FIBAE7 has fuller bodied mids thanks to more lower mids presence where the EM64 has a sharper dip between the mid bass and lower mids, but also upper mids are brighter still on the EM64. This makes the EM64 even more energetic, but also it has more clarity and transparency. On the flipside the FIBAE7 is more euphonic with smoother presentation, rich textures and fuller body.
Last but not least the treble section is one of the distinctive difference between the EM64 and FIBAE7, the EM64 has a smoother upper mids to treble transition making it again brighter overall while the FIBAE7 has a sharp dip 4 to 7kHz with the exception of a 5 and 7kHz bump. Interestingly, I find the FIBAE7 doesn’t lack lower treble energy, mainly also because treble has similar body and weight, it’s just less fatiguing because again the note attack is softer and decay is not as fast and more natural on the FIBAE7. Now upper treble is more prominent on the EM64 and it sounds more resolving than the FIBAE7, helped by greater clarity and transparency.
In all my collection, the EM64 is a very complementary IEM to the FIBAE7 because it gives me two alternative takes on highly engaging signature : both have great sense of rhythm, both are fairly forward and if it’s your kind of signature you’ll enjoy, but one is clearer, faster and more reference the other more euphonic, richer sounding and fuller bodied.
Note : this comparison is taken from my Rai Penta review
I’ll be comparing the Penta with Custom Art Silicon tips and the custom FIBAE7 I have in my collection. The Penta and FIBAE7 share a beautifully executed balance across the frequency range, just a very different presentation and a warmer tilt to the FIBAE7. From this point of view the Penta is more reference and the FIBAE7 is more on the euphonic side of things.
When switching from the Penta to the FIBAE7, the most important difference you’ll notice right away is how full bodied and thick the FIBAE7 sounds comparatively to the Rai Penta. The Penta almost has a feather like touch to notes compared to the FIBAE7. This is mainly due to the lower mids tuning, leaner on the Penta and significantly more present in the FIBAE7. Vocals are a bit more forward in the mix and lusher as well, this is a flattering presentation with more power to male vocals and sweeter tone to female. While they share similar ability to convey nuances of vocals and instruments, the Penta is more strictly accurate in its tone and more articulate.
I also believe the absence of venting on the FIBAE7 makes for more dense presentation of notes overall including more bass presence and weight. Despite featuring 2 BA for bass against 1 DD for the Penta, the FIBAE7 has more bass kick and even subs can be physically felt which is something to behold. This carries over the treble section as well where the lower treble has significantly more weight and body the treble impact is greater. On the flip side the Penta has better layering and detail is more apparent with a clearer signature.
The Penta feels more open and has better separation, the FIBAE7 feels more of a whole with less separation but more of a continuum of sound. The FIBAE7 is more organic, the overall signature is richer in a way that will be too much for some especially with thicker sounding sources. The Penta feel more open mainly thanks to the air brought by its thinner tuning versus the thicker FIBAE7. Soundstage wise, the Penta is wider but the FIBAE7 is taller and deeper. Note attack is snappier on the Penta and softer with the FIBAE7 which remains the epitome of buttery smooth at all times.
The FIBAE 7 in custom form comes with a solid black plain card box which contains a black Pelican 1010 hard case with a black lid and internal foam padding (a little upgrade from previous packages that I find great for IEM safety), itself containing a small black pouch with a cleaning tool. The FIBAE7 stock cable is a very nice Null Audio Arete copper cable featuring premium grade multi-stranded UPOCC Copper conductor.
- Driver configuration, 7 drivers :2x Sub-Low
- 1 x Low-Mid
- 2 x Mid-High
- 1 x proprietary High
- 1 x proprietary Super High
- Sensitivity : 113dB @1kHz @0.1V
- Distorsion : Low % THD (not specified)
- 5.9 Ohm @1kHz (+-0.75 Ohm 10Hz-20kHz)
- 10Hz-21000Hz (+-20dB into IEC 60318-4 coupler)
Leave a Reply