Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII Review

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Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII
Reviewed Mar 2012

Details: Second version of Fischer’s dual-driver flagship
MSRP: $198 / manufacturer’s page
Current Price: $198 from amazon.com$198 from musicaacoustics.com
Specs: Driver: Dual BA | Imp: 43 Ω | Sens: 108 dB | Freq: 20-24k Hz | Cable: 4.3′ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 2.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock triple-flange
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (4.5/5) – Standard (3 sizes), foam-stuffed Sony Hybrid-style (3 sizes), and Apple-style (2 sizes) single-flange silicone tips, triple-flange silicone tips, over-the-ear cable guides, shirt clip, and clamshell carrying case Note: newer DBA-02 mkII units feature fewer tips but include an L-shape 3.5mm plug adapter and built-in cable cinch
Build Quality (4/5) – The tiny new housings feel very sturdy compared to the old DBA-02 shells, boasting a nice rubberized finish and all-black color scheme. The thick flat cable is similar to the one on Fischer’s Oldskool ’70 portable headphone and is very well-relieved both on housing entry and at the I-plug. Biggest complaint is the lack of a cable cinch, which would be a bigger help with the thicker & stiffer flat cable compared to the old DBA-02’s softer twisted cord Note: newer DBA-02 mkII units feature a cable cinch
Isolation (4/5) – Very good now that the housings are designed for a deep fit and the accessory pack includes a larger variety of tips
Microphonics (3.5/5) – Bothersome when worn cord-down, low when worn over-the-ear
Comfort (4.5/5) – The new housings are small and very lightweight, with more shallowly angled nozzles that work both for cable-up and cable-down wear. They are only a bit larger than the q-JAYS/UE700 but the stiff, thick cable makes it harder for the DBA-02 mkII to disappear when worn

Sound (9.2/10) – Upon its release, the original Fischer Audio DBA-02 was undoubtedly one of the best bang-for-the-buck earphones on the market for fans of balanced and accurate sound. It mustered a loyal following and still commands frequent recommendations more than two years later. While the new mkII revision, which is set to replace the mkI very soon, is in large part cosmetic, the two generations do differ ever so slightly in sound signature.

Expectedly, the mkII retains the general sound profile of a TWFK-based earphone – tight and precise bass, a clean and detailed midrange, and prominent, sparkly treble. As before, the bass quantity is quite close to neutral and the low end is only missing a tiny bit of extension at the very bottom. The mkII seems to move a touch more air compared to the old DBA-02 and has a marginally thicker note presentation but overall the bass is similarly quick and highly detailed, with better texture compared to the Ultimate Ears 700 and a bit more punch compared to the VSonic GR01.

The midrange is clean and prominent, balanced very well with the low end and offering high levels of clarity and detail. The DBA-02 has always been an aggressive-sounding earphone, with an extremely crisp presentation and excellent texture. The mkII revision sounds a touch more dry compared to the old version, with a darker background and cleaner notes, but on the whole the two sets are again more similar to each other than they are to other TWFK-based earphones. The CK10, GR01, and UE700 are all smoother and more liquid-sounding but the DBA-02 mkII is more aggressively detailed compared to the UE700 and clearer than the GR01. It is the most analytical-sounding of the bunch, but the clarity and detail are well worth it.

The top end of the DBA-02 mkII is crisp and extended. The resolution of the TWFK driver is immense – even the VSonic GR07 fails to sound all that clean and effortless next to the DBA-02. Compared to the original DBA-02, the mkII seems to have been tuned for slightly more relaxed treble, but in reality it is only a hair less sibilant on a few tracks. Otherwise it sounds sparkly and energetic, as the original did – less ‘hot’ than the ATH-CK10 but still not quite as smooth as the VSonic GR01. Treble extension is good and yet there’s none of the sheen or shimmer present at the top end of some other BA-based universals, resulting in fairly realistic timbre with no metallic treble edge.

The presentation of the DBA-02 mkII is open and airy, as TWFK-based earphones tend to be, but perhaps a touch less so than the brighter mkI. The soundstage is well-rounded, with better depth and height but a little less width in comparison to the UE700. Instrument separation is excellent – again more competent than even the VSonic GR07 – and the sound is nicely layered. The ATH-CK10 is still slightly more enveloping, with better 3D imaging and ambience, but the DBA-02 is no slouch, with a better on-center feel compared to the UE700 and especially the more distant-sounding GR07. Some dynamics are sacrificed in order to maintain aggressive detailing – the Earsonics SM3, Westone 4, and most dynamic-driver sets fare better here – but this will be a mere nitpick for most listeners. Overall, the sound quality of DBA-02 mkII is still well worth the price of admission.

THL Recommended Badge 2014Value (9.5/10) – The second revision of Fischer Audio’s renowned DBA-02 finally matches the premium sound of the earphone with a premium feel, making a series of gains over the old version as a result of a new housing design, more durable cable construction, and improved accessory pack. The updated earphones are sturdier, more comfortable, and more isolating – a more mature package more deserving of being a market mainstay. The sound, while slightly re-tuned, is still closer to the 1st-gen DBA-02 than the other TWFK-based earphones on the market. The only real complaint has to do with the microphonics – there is more cable noise with the flat, rubbery cable on the DBA-02 mkII unless the earphones are worn cord-up. Despite this, the DBA-02 is still about as good as it gets for the analytical listener; the competition may have gotten stiffer, but the bang/buck ratio of the DBA-02 has remained very strong.

Pros: Astonishingly balanced and capable sound, comfortable, well-built, and well-isolating
Cons: Microphonic when worn cord-down


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

54 Comments

  1. Hooked on

    Hey joker,

    It’s been about a year since the MKIIIs showed up on Fischer’s website. Have they ever been sold?

    Back in November 2015, someone on Head-Fi posted that they got a response from Fischer Audio’s Facebook page stating that they would be available by late January of this year. Do you have any info on them?

    • ljokerl on

      Yeah, I asked Fischer to be notified when they are finally available for purchase, but so far nothing.

      • Hooked on

        Ah. Hopefully they become available soon. I feel like a fish out of water when it comes to listening to music…

  2. Uxkkun on

    Hey!

    I’m wondering how these compare to the Westone 2 in terms of presentation. You’ve described the Westone 2 as having a great ‘three dimensional sonic image’, which is something I’m looking for, but I’d like a sound signature more similar to the GR07s.

    Would you recommend the DBA-02s in this case? I prefer a more balanced sound so this is looking good.

    • Uxkkun on

      The Aclair References seem like a good option too. That’s about as pricey as I’m willing to go.

      How would they compare to the IEMs I’ve mentioned above?

      • ljokerl on

        The Westone 2 and DBA-02 are both pretty balanced but I’ve always thought the DBA-02 sounded better overall. Unless you’re getting the W2 for a much lower price, I’d still go with the DBA-02. The Reference will have an even more GR07-like sound signature because it has a little more bass and a slightly more laid-back midrange compared to the flatter DBA-02. You’re kind of getting the best of both worlds with the Reference – a sound signature closer to the GR07 but clarity and soundstaging more like the DBA-02. However, you’re obviously paying more for it as well.

  3. nick on

    Hello ljoker, ic ouldnt find your review of UE700’s. Could you please direct me towards the review ? also, i own a GR07BE. Do you think buying a used UE700 for $55 is a good idea? I mean, would it be an upgrade/sidegrade t the GR07be? thanks 🙂

    • ljokerl on

      Never completed a UE700 review as it was quite similar to the other TWFK earpones like these DBAs. For $55 it’s a killer value, though.

  4. mikkling on

    Just a heads-up for anyone interested in these superb IEM:s — i was just in contact with Fischer Audio support about repairing my pair, and they said that “this model has been taken out of production”. If you are interested, get a pair while you still can.

    Best,
    Mikael

  5. Polygon on

    There must be some sort of revision of the MKII at some point in time, as mine feature a cable cinch. Always have, for that matter, and I never even knew they hadn’t. The cable cinch is shown here:

    http://img.yapo.cl/images/71/7181711364.jpg

  6. remanus on

    Hi joker,

    First i want to say what a great website and source for me and all the others to find information on headphones.

    That said, i have a question. I want to upgrade my current headphones(TDK ie800) The sound on these i love, but they can get messy in the bass. Will the dba-020mkii be a upgrade or will i have to spend a 100€ more to get a upgrade that is worth it?

    • ljokerl on

      I haven’t tried the TDK IE800 but you won’t have any control/tightness issues with the bass of the DBA-02 – it’s about as clean as bass gets.

      • remanus on

        Bought a ue900 for 160€, i think for that price i should give those a chance. Will get them later this month. Thanks for all the information again joker, it did help me alot with making my choice.

        • ljokerl on

          Sure thing, enjoy the UE900!

  7. omar on

    hi joker how would these compare to the gro7 bass? im getting them both around a simmilar price

    • ljokerl on

      Different sound presentation – these are flat, a little bright in the treble. The GR07BEs have boosted bass and tend to be a little on the warm side, with a more v-shaped sound sig and less prominent mids. They’re comparable in performance, just tuned differently.

      • omar on

        so if i listen to rock, R&B, rap, classical music which phones should i go for?

        • omar on

          Im caught between Dunu DN-1000, vsonic gr07be and dba 02 mkii. i don’t want to spend much over 200 if you any other suggestions. can you help me decide thx again

          • ljokerl on

            Again, very different sound signatures. The DN-1000 is even more v-shaped than the GR07BE with stronger, deeper bass and a little more treble energy overall. You have to figure out which signature you want to try and from there it’ll be quite clear which one to go for. The GR07 BE would be “splitting the difference” between the other two, so maybe that’s the one to get.

  8. Hito_kun on

    Just a question, I´m between these ones and the Ety HF5 (actually, Im replacing another HF5s because I lost´em). Is the $80 USD diference in the price tag really worth it? I´m seeing you´re placing the dba-02 above the HF5 in bang-for-the-buck, so I´m very intrigued, since my plan was to just get another pair of the etys, and in most of the direct comparisons, people seem to place the HF5 as the best choice, so I´m only wondering what I´m getting for the extra in the pricetag.
    I really like the precision in the response of my last pair, but I think a warmer sound would be a good fit for me (I don´t know abour the soundstage, because I don´t have a way to compare, but I think that would be rather good).
    My listening goes from classical to death metal, so flexibility is also appreciated (if it helps, Pink Floyd´s WYWH SACD is my favorite and ultimate listening reference).

    • ljokerl on

      Not going to be a huge difference coming from the HF5 as both are very balanced earphones. DBAs will give you slightly more bass depth and a more well-rounded presentation but you’re not going to get that same “wow” effect at the clarity and resolution as you would coming from a $50 earphone or one that’s not very balanced-sounding.

      It sounds like you were happy with the HF5, so I’d probably just stick with it.

      • Hito_kun on

        Yeah, I think I will, it was just that having now some more budget.
        Now I’m between the HF5 or just say fuck it and go for the ER-4PT. Do you think that makes sense, jump in quality-wise?
        Also, does the impedance adapter (now included in the box) actually improves the accuracy? I would like getting the ER-4S, but the 100 Ohms is pretty unpractical, considering that will be pretty much my only phones for a while and I don’t want to carry an amp to listen to my mobile or tablet.

        • ljokerl on

          It’s not a huge jump but the ER4 is an extremely accurate earphone. If you’re one of those people who will always wonder about what could have been, it probably does make sense to make the jump.

          The ER4PT + adapter should be exactly the same thing as the ER4S, which is the most accurate Ety, just more flexible in terms of the ability to use it at full impedance or as an ER4P. The only inconvenience is that there is an adapter to worry about losing and carrying around and whatnot.

          • Hito_kun on

            Well I found a second hand ER-4P at a pretty reasonable price, so imma gonna bite that bullet.
            Thanks a lot 😀

  9. omi on

    Hi Joker,

    I recently got these for a good deal and I must say I am mighty impressed!! The resolution and clarity is pretty much the best I have heard thus far. Thanks for you review, which is spot on and mirrors my impressions perfectly.

    • ljokerl on

      Glad to hear that :). Happy listening!

  10. mikkling on

    I just ordered a pair, largely thanks to your reviews. My current portables are Hifiman RE-400. I’m expecting less bass and more treble from the DBA-02s, and i’m hoping for better clarity and separation. What would you say is the biggest difference between these IEMs?

    • ljokerl on

      That should be what you get. Biggest difference is probably the tonality – the RE-400 is on the warm side of neutral whereas these are not. That and they will be less forgiving of mastering quality, sibilance, and so on.

      • mikkling on

        Now that i’ve heard them, i can say: yup, spot on. I am pleasantly surprised by how the DBA-02s handles voices in particular.

          • mikkling on

            I’m really enjoying these impressive IEMs. If i was to get a noteworthy upgrade with similar tonality, how far up the price ladder would i have to go to?

          • ljokerl on

            Quite high up for a noticeable step up – probably custom like the 1964EARS V6, unless you just wanted a change in sound signature. For universals there are probably options $300+ worth trying, like the Etymotic ER4S, but it’s hard to call it an upgrade.

          • mikkling on

            Yeah, i figured i’d have to go into the high-end CIEMs. If i want to keep the sound signature, i should aim at the 1964EARS V6?

          • ljokerl on

            Yes, the V6-Stage is the most “low cost” high-end custom I’ve tried and has a nicely balanced sound.

          • mikkling on

            Hmm, now i’m thinking of not buying new at-home headphones, and putting that money into in-ears instead. If we’re talking TOTL, what would you recommend that gives me the best clarity, separation, and speed? They don’t have to be as bright as the DBA-mkII, but a balanced sound would be desirable. Should i be looking at something like the JH13 Pro Freqphase or the Hidition NT6? Or something else?

          • mikkling on

            Thank you!

            Now, the luxury problem of deciding what to get…

  11. Sabine on

    Thanks for the great reviews.

    I’m shopping around for a new headset and wonder if these will be a good fit. Right now I use the UE600Vi, which I like but the plug is about to come off. I listen to a wide variety of genres, from classical, to jazz, pop, rock, dance and so on. I also have the Sennheiser HD598, which I really like. While it is fun to have a more bass heavy headset every now and then in general I prefer it balanced. The build quality should be good. It’s disappointing that the cable connection lasted just 2 years (gentle use only) on my UE600.

    Beside the DBA-02 I also looked at the Yamaha EPH-100 and DUNU Dn-1000 and a couple of others. I wonder how these compare to the 2 headsets I own right now and which would be the best fit. Or if there is something else. Budget is in the 200 range.

    Thanks.

    • ljokerl on

      I hope by headset you don’t mean one with mic/remote, because these definitely don’t have either.

      The DBA-02 is a neutral to slightly bright option, certainly brighter than your UE600. If you want balance it’s definitely better than the EPH-100 (which is pretty bassy) and the DN-1000 (which is v-shaped overall, meaning both the bass and treble are boosted).

      The TDK BA200 (http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/tdk-ba200/) is another earphone I can recommend for balanced sound. This one has a warmer tilt compared to the brighter DBA-02 but is still pretty neutral on the whole.

      • Sabine on

        Thanks for answering. My UE600 have the remote controls, and it is a nice to have (volume control and skipping songs; phone calls not so much with that type of headphone) but I can live without it.

        I was looking around for the TDKs but they are not sold where I’m really comfortable buying. I also wonder about the company support should anything not work correctly when I order let’s say in China. There probably won’t be any valid warranty.

        That brings me back to reading more about the DBA-02. I saw several very favorable reviews in a couple different places and I think I will give them a try although they are brighter than the ones I use right now. Never hurts to try something new. I’ll order through your affiliate link. I found your site very helpful to narrow down the choices.

        • ljokerl on

          Thank you, glad to help!

          • Sabine on

            My headphones arrived two days ago and I really like them. The sound is wonderful and still improving. They are even better with my Fiio amp. I’m glad I found this review.

          • ljokerl on

            My favorite sort of feedback :). Enjoy!

  12. Larry on

    Thank you for the review!

    I have been using these for about 3 years now, mostly because of this review.

    Now I’m worried on finding a good replacement/upgrade. Other IEMs(Westone w30, Sony XBA-h3) I’ve tried just sound muddy at the treble now that I’ve come to love the clarity of the DBA-02.

    What would you recommend, that is at or up to around $100 that is just as capable as these at trebles, but have better bass?

    • ljokerl on

      I doubt you’ll find something that’s as good as the DBA-02 and has improved bass at $100 or less. The DBA-02 is a good value at $120+. Your best bet would probably be a Dunu DN-1000, which uses a TWFK driver for the mids and highs and adds a dynamic driver for bass. The bass will sound a little sluggish in comparison to the DBA-02, but there will be more of it and the treble won’t be dull or muddy.

      • Larry on

        Oops, I actually meant up to $100 more than these DBAs, so around $300 USD, slightly more can still be considered.

        Thanks for the reply!

      • Larry on

        I’ve done a bit more reading, it seems Fidue A83 and Dunu-1000/2000 are good matches.

        Any thoughts on them, or other good matches?

  13. abhishekSPS on

    thanks for the detailed review!
    i really want to pull trigger on these but just want to know if i am putting my money (about $200) in the best iem suited for me.
    i mostly listen to NEW AGE, world music, electronic, ORCHESTRAL and classical genre.
    i will be plugging them directly in sansaclip+ without amplifiers, although i may buy one in near future.
    i know i can’t get both in one but what would be my best bet if i want my iem to be ANALYTICAL but at the same time a bit musical and FUN sounding with good soundstage and imaging.
    COMFORT is important for me and i don’t really like deep insertion type iems.
    microphonics and isolation is not an issue but it should certainly not leak like open cans.
    and cables should not have memory.
    is dba-02 my best bet for AROUND $200 iem or i have better options???

    i would really appreciate if you would guide me. 🙂

    • ljokerl on

      Most TWFKs including this one do like to be inserted fairly deep in the ear, some more than others. The DBA-02 mkII is one of the better ones but still if you like shallow-insertion IEMs you might be better off with something other than a TWFK-based earphone. In terms of value, you can get similar audio performance with the less expensive VSonic VC1000 but that also likes to be inserted moderately deep (though it also sounds fine with a shallow-mid seal and MEElectronics M6 bi-flanges).

      Anyway, usually when people say fun-sounding they want a bit of enhanced bass. If you think you would enjoy a bass-boosted IEM rather than a strictly analytical, two good ones in this price range that maintain fidelity in the mids and highs and also sound okay with a shallower seal are the Dunu DN-1000 and VSonic GR07BE. If you think you’ll be fine with a mostly analytical sound, the DBA-02 mkII is as good as anything else in the price range.

      • abhishekSPS on

        thanks it helped.
        i will give dn1000 a try.

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