Also present at Music Sanctuary’s treasure trove of trinkets were two Polish manufacturers that I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working with time and time again on the site: Piotr Granicki of Custom Art and Emil Stolecki of Lime Ears. I visited the former first and auditioned his brand new product – the FIBAE Massdrop Edition. It’s a six-driver IEM with a bass-oriented signature, equipped with Custom Art’s innovative FIBAE technology designed to maintain the monitor’s signature regardless of source. Our very own Pinky Powers will be reviewing the custom variant of the FIBAE ME soon.
Custom Art FIBAE Massdrop Edition: The FIBAE ME was designed with an emphasis in the low-end to produce a warm, rich and pleasing sonic palate. Although the entire bass region itself is elevated, Piotr has tuned it specifically to emulate the physicality and air of a dynamic driver. Bolstered by a rise from the sub-bass all throughout the mid-bass, the ME achieves this successfully – simulating the viscerality and decay that certainly evokes a driver of this kind. And, this low-end warmth serves a double purpose; also adding richness and body into the midrange. The ME’s lower-midrange is attenuated to compensate for this, maximising the low-end’s harmonic richness without congestion or bloat.
Also a key player in this regard is an upper-midrange peak. The FIBAE ME employs an 8-9 kHz peak that heavily resembles the one found in their flagship Harmony 8.2. This peak aids vocal articulation and effectively prevents any excess bloat coming from the low-end. This is then capped off with a warm top-end and a relatively linear upper-treble – solidifying the ME’s mellow and organic signature. But, due to impressive treble extension, the FIBAE ME has one of the most impressive soundstages Custom Art has ever put out. Although it is inherently full-sounding because of its elevated low-end, the ME is equipped with more than enough headroom to create a spacious environment – expanding admirably in width and decently in depth to create an engaging-yet-easygoing soundscape.
After I finished noting down my impressions of the FIBAE ME, I scooted over to the table at my right where I was greeted joyfully by the ever-eccentric and ever-groovy Emil Stolecki. Although he’s still deep in development as far as new products are concerned, he did bring – to my pleasant surprise – brand new packaging for the universal variant of the Aether and my very own Model X review unit! To be completely honest, I was happier to see the former than the latter – packaging is a very important aspect of product design to me – but that opinion only lasted the few seconds it took to get the Model X’s into my ears, because these things sound phenomenal!
Lime Ears Model X: After writing my very first THL review on the Lime Ears Aether, I reached out to Emil about doing one on the Model X. And, Emil finally bequeathed them to me here, months later. The reason why it took so long to produce is the unique shell design. Inspired by the elegant textures of marble, Emil and his team toiled hard to produce a similarly classy swirl. I think it’s safe to say they’ve done a pretty stellar job. Compared to my Aether’s, the Model X’s are infinitely more ergonomic. The Aether – love ‘em to death – are still the tightest customs I own. These marbled jewels, on the other hand, are two of the most comfortable, low-profile and seamless I’ve ever experienced. They are an absolute joy to wear, and they only go to show how far Emil and his team have come within the past couple years.
Sonically, the Model X is a clear cousin to the Aether – sharing its smooth, airy and oh-so-charming tonality – whilst cutting back on the bass in exchange for a more present midrange. Even with the bass switch up, the Model X is considerably more controlled down low – showcasing improvements in clarity and layering as a result. They are a tad less warm, but they remain admirably natural nonetheless. The Model X – again – places vocals further forward, trading sheer soundstage depth for engagement and ease. Thankfully, though, this added presence doesn’t hurt headroom in any way. Impressive top-end extension as well as a tasteful upper-treble lift reprises Lime Ears’ signature airiness whilst remaining effortlessly smooth. Emil – to this day – is still the master in my books at achieving impossible levels of clarity within a gorgeously relaxed signature. Continuing in the Aether’s footsteps, the Model X is an absolute winner in sheer listenability alone. It has a clear, open and ever-pleasing presentation that’s absolutely addictive to listen to. It sounds about as gorgeous as it looks, and I can’t wait to revisit them in a full review soon.
Lime Ears’ New Packaging: Speaking of showing progress, Emil is finally revamping Lime Ears’ packaging! This was one of the few negatives I held against the Aether in my review, and it’s incredibly fulfilling to see a company act upon constructive criticism with such immediacy. Emil brought two pre-production boxes, both accompanying ergonomically-redesigned Aether universals – they are now considerably fatter, but more comfortably-contoured. Within both were a variety of tips, a cleaning tool, a ¼” inch adapter and – what I assume to be – documentation (i.e. quick start guides, brochures, etc.). And – under them all – a large, foam-lined metal case with the Aether’s nestled safely inside.
I questioned the size of the case, noting all the empty space that would be left to waste, to which Emil replied, “We felt the need to design a case large enough for not only the IEMs themselves, but also… the importance of the IEM.” I was then quickly distracted by the fact that both boxes used magnetic latches, and all doubt within me disappeared completely. Jokes aside, the case was developed that way to ensure compatibility with all sorts of aftermarket cables (the Whiplash cable displayed with the Aether barely fit within the circumference of the puck), as well as backup cables should you ever need them. It’s an elegant – if not overweight – package that instantly put a smile on my face, proving that presentation in the modern market is considered just as important as sound and design.