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Fit-Ear PS-5 custom in-ear monitor (CIEM) review: Dominate on stage or at home

P1040027

Fit-Ear, not to be confused with FItEar Japan, is a company based in California and run by Mark Hood.  When asked more about the company, Mark’s explanation of how he operates and what the company does follows:

“I travel extensively, doing motorcycle shows and events across the country. It is where I started my business, years back. Having a high end stable product has been the driving force for us. Our focus, from the start, was placed on developing more accurate reproduction, transparency, clarity and efficiency. When you make a head to head comparison of products, the ability to hear the difference is everything. Our line has blossomed over the years and continues to evolve.

I own and have marketed the majority of products that have been, that are available and products that will be released, in the marketplace. Westone, JH Audio, UE, Sensaphonics, Shure and others. We have used these available products to establish a baseline and surpass what is available.

Each of our custom products, in its design, have specific sound characteristics.

The S (sports model) products are designed for warm sound reproduction, for general use on standard download mp3 and iTunes users.

The M ( motorcycle model ) products are intended to have a warm to accurate reproduction ability, broad overlap crossover settings, depending on the level of product ( singles, duals and so on ). It’s intended use is for high noise, under helmet and built with durable components.

The PS (pro series ) products have a more narrow overlap on the crossover settings for adjustable, responsive and precise reproduction. This gives the PS series a more full, clear, clean reproduction ability in high end (iMod ) listening and professional settings using an EQ or board to set them.

The MPD (multi-purpose device) is a product that I invented and have full patent on. It provides adjustable amplified reproduction of ambient sound, in the earpieces, with source capability at the same time. Each earpiece has independent ambient sound volume control for the ambient sound directly on the outside of each ear. The push button control lets the user control the amount of amplification of ambient sound on each earpiece. Source reproduction components are controlled by the source volume and the PS series components are used in the MPD.”

That is a full product lineup, and Mark sounds very knowledgeable! I will compare the PS-5 against two UE models and some other high performance non-US monitors to see how they stack up.

 

HOW TO ORDER & OPTIONS
The PS-5 cost $1,650 + $10 shipping, and since I live in CA and they are located in CA, $136.13 in tax for a total of $1,796.13.

Mark personally burns in each unit to ensure no issues before sending them out, hence a longer than usual turn time.

Options:

Impression instructions:
If you take your own impressions, use a bite block, but special material must also be used because of the special process used to make the shell, which uses extremely high heat.  Mark typically takes the impressions himself and even offered to drive to me when he was in Long Beach, which would be about 2 hours round trip!

My initial ear impressions were taken with standard impression material that is used throughout the industry, and when the monitors were returned to me they looked like shells made for someone else.  When I received my shrunken impressions back later, I understood it was my impressions that shrunk.

Where to send the impressions:

USPS:Fit-EarP.O. Box 1294Colfax, CA 95713 UPS or Fedex:Fit-Ear9 North Main StreetColfax, CA 95713

Warranty
30 day refit, 2 year manufacturer warranty from date of shipping.  See here for full warranty information.

 

DESIGN
The PS-5 is a 5-driver, 3-way (2 crossover points) custom in-ear monitor in an acrylic shell with a detachable cable.  There is a dual woofer, midrange, and dual (TWFK) tweeter.  The shell is made with a special heat process and requires a special impression material.  Inside the shell, it is very neat and orderly, and the shells are flush with my ears, which is on par with mainstream manufacturers such as UE and JHA.  The cable attachment point is raised on the shell faceplate and uses the standard JHA/Westone cable in a recessed socket.

 

 

 

 

Specifications:

Sensitivity: 117dB SPL @(1Khz)
Impedance: 25 Ohm @(1Khz)
Frequency Response: 20Hz – 18Khz

 

ACCESSORIES
The PS-5 comes with a padded, zippered storage case, cleaning tool, 30 day fit card, and a care/instruction manual.  The case, while not bad, isn’t as protective as the Otter Box or Pelican hard plastic and weather-proof boxes.  For the price of the PS-5, I would have hoped a more protective case with desiccant would be included in addition to the softer case so the customer could choose.

 

CABLE
The cable is a standard silver twisted CIEM cable and is pin compatible with Westone, JHA, etc.  The cable does oxidize over time.

 

ISOLATION
The website claims isolation between 29 and 33 dBa.  My experience is the PS-5 isolates as well as a standard acrylic shelled CIEM, scoring 5/10 on my isolation score, which is closer to 26 dB in my ears.

 

SOUND
Disclaimer: My review is done in a comparative way using similarly priced IEMs and/or CIEMs for perspective and to determine performance.  In this review I try to accurately portray the product under review, presenting strengths and weaknesses, the sound signature, characteristics, and technical performance as opposed to providing flowery dialog of performance without perspective.  My ultimate goal is to enable you to make an informed decision about what product is right for you.  Take the review as a critical look at the product and not a sales pitch or marketing fluff.  I believe gear should be selected based on the sound signature you want and/or the specific use, not solely on technical performance or unsubstantiated hype.  Here are some quick references for more information: My review technique, Thoughts on reading a review, Custom IEM information

The PS-5 received 100+ hours of burn in as is customary before I do my serious listening.  The following custom IEMs were used for comparison: Spiral Ear SE 5-way Reference, Ultimate Ears Personal Reference Monitor, ACS T1 Live!, Hidition NT-6 pro, M-Fidelity SA-43, EarSonics EM4, Heir Audio 8.A, Unique Melody PP6, and Rooth LS8.

Initially, while I thought the PS-5 was good, I didn’t think it was quite worth the asking price of $1,650.  I did what I typically do and compared it with my other high end CIEMs, used different sources, and while at times it sounded fantastic, other times it sounded bad.  After some additional listening to try to really figure out what was going on, it turns out the PS-5 is extremely source sensitive and to an extent, track sensitive. The mid-bass, midrange, and upper midrange, depending on the song and source, would shift their presentation location and note thickness, at times sounding forward and overly thick.  My testing and description is based off pairing the PS-5 with well-matched sources, which greatly reduced the issues with select tracks.

Bass: The bass is present, very present.  Not necessarily in a basshead, always on sort of way, but the capability is quite impressive as the PS-5 can recreate the inherent power in bass heavy music, but other times is only a bit north of neutral. Bass quality is very good, sitting near the top of my performance chart, but it isn’t the cleanest or clearest and detail levels are not quite as high as some of the competition such as the SE5, PP6, and NT-6 pro.  The presentation is enveloped in a warmth and richness that provides an organic thickness, especially in the upper bass region, and with certain tracks with select sources (and only select sources), the mid-bass can affect the midrange. It is important to note that other CIEMs also can have similar tendencies with the tracks, but the PS-5 takes the warmth and thickness to another level, impending on the clarity and shares these qualities with the 8.A and ACS T1 Live!.  Overall, the PS-5 has excellent bass regardless of the source and will not leave you wanting more.

Midrange: The focal point of the presentation is the midrange, and it is very detailed but rich and thick with excellent instrument separation and definition of black space and spatial queues resulting in a realistic presentation that, with the right source, can be quite involving.  Vocals sound realistic and you can hear minute details and spatial queues with rich, organic overtones. The presentation places you quite close to the performers in a similar way to other stage monitors such as the ACS T1, ProGuard P2+1, and EarSonics EM4. However, depending on the source, the midrange in relation to the bass and treble changes with sources such as the Anedio D1 flattening out the midrange while something like the AK120 pulls the midrange even closer to you and further from the rest of the spectrum.  Select tracks with less than ideal source pairings can change the magical presentation from impressive to odd sounding as the technical merit is still pretty much intact, but the midrange can sound out of place. This was my initial issue with the PS-5, but as noted, I have spent many a night in awe of the sound. The PS-5 is capable of not just playing back music, but recreating an experience and the midrange is a large part of that due to the spaciousness and resolution within the soundstage in the midrange.

Treble: Natural, relaxed, linear, and extended sum up the treble.  Note decay is done right with a smooth yet detailed presentation with no hint of harshness making for a very natural sound, when combined with the lack of peaks and great extension, I could hear a 19.5K test tones (even though the specs rate the treble up to 18K), making the treble a real strength of the PS-5.  In comparison with other CIEMs, the PS-5 treble is one of the best I have heard, comparing well with the SE5, NT-6, and LS8. Detail levels are high, but there is more detail presented by the three previously mentioned, but in comparison, all sound more sharp and harsh, especially with less than perfect tracks. The presentation isn’t what I would call bright as it falls between the 8.A and SE5 in amplitude, but sounds a bit more linear than both. The coherence between the upper mids and treble is excellent, but is presented a slight bit further back.  There is not much else to say about the treble other than it is exceptional and one of the best I have heard.

Presentation: The PS-5 presentation is on the mid-forward side with a thicker than neutral average note sustainment across the spectrum which leads to an organic sound. Note capability is very good, rivaling the PP6 and NT-6 pro and falling slightly behind the Spiral Ear SE 5-way Reference. The sustainment across the spectrum is good while the PS-5 is capable of keeping up with fast moving tracks. Even with its presentation thickness, the PS-5 is quite clear and offers excellent imaging. The PS-5 is capable of playing well at loud volumes and has excellent dynamics and a powerful sound that can convey the emotion within the music.

The combination of excellent imaging along with very good depth of presentation and height allow the PS-5 to recreate a lifelike space similar to other top CIEM performers used for comparison. The presentation is more of a stage sound and isn’t all that large in overall width, but is by no means small, but this does change with source matching as the PS-5 is very sensitive to source and to a lesser extent mastering of the tracks. Thicker tracks can sound overly forward and honky with a poor source match while the same track will sound clean, clear, and precise with a well matched source.

About average_joe

Having a life-long love of high-quality audio and gadgets, average_joe got back in touch with his audiophile side after a hiatus caused by life. His focus became headphones and related gear as the size and price fit his life better than home audio. He believes the entire audio chain is important, and likes to continue to think past the headphone and on into the head, as he believes understanding the details of how we hear will lead to a better audio experience.

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